Among the highlights at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring 2019 Modern Art Evening Sale was Pang Jiun’s masterpiece A Thousand Sails on The Spring Tide. The 7-meter-long painting sold for more than HK$6 million, setting a new record for the artist. This season, we are pleased to offer another of Pang Jiun’s important large-scale masterpieces. The works of this master painter will continue to attract attention, as the artist has made significant contributions to the art world for the past 70 years and has served as a mentor to many younger artists. Created in 1994, The Dream About Bin-Hong Huang No.3 (Lot 1037), is a rarity among Pang Jiun’s works. A departure from his preferred styles of still lifes and landscapes, Pang created a work that resembles a traditional Chinese scroll. Traditional still life paintings emphasize realistic portrayals, balance of light and shadow and the perception of space. In this particular work Pang Jiun overlaps heavy oil paints to depict scenes of traditional landscapes, including mountains, forests, boats, and farmhouses. The scenery is rich and radiates Chinese aesthetics. As early as in the 1970s’s, Pang Jiun experimented with traditional Chinese painting by swapping the ink paint for oils. He sought a new method of expression and in this way break through the established categories of traditional media and themes from both the East and the West. This present work is a culmination of this style and represents a unique genre.
Pang Jiun’s teacher at the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts was Huang Binhong, a man who was also a close friend of the artist’s father, Pang Xunqin. Huang is a controversial figure in modern Chinese art history. Critics’ views of his works are divided, and few are truly able to grasp the full complexity of his paintings. Despite the connection between Huang and his student, Pang admits his earlier understanding of Huang were not profound. It was not until the 1990’s, when Pang Jiun moved to Taiwan and came across a book on Huang’s works that Pang truly gained clarity on his teacher’s oeuvre. The book contained not only Huang’s paintings, but also his essays on painting techniques, calligraphy, engraving, epigraphy, and painting history; showcasing an unmatched breadth and depth of knowledge. According to Pang, it was only after mastering Huang’s theoretical foundations and a careful study of the aesthetics of painting that the artist could understand his own creativity. This insight transformed the way Pang Jiun painted and fostered the very ideas that birthed The Dream About Bin-Hong Huang No.3. In an interview with a Sotheby’s specialist, Pang Jiun expressed a special fondness for this particular painting. While it has been 25 years, its creative concept remains fresh in the artist’s memory. Reminiscing about his relationship with Huang, and the origin of The Dream About Bin-Hong Huang three-painting series, Pang Jiun said:
“I was not particularly taken by Huang Binhong when I first looked at his works. I did, however, find the works he created when he was in his 60s and 70s very good, and those he created at 90 years of age and above were unparalleled, because by that time, he had cultivated profound knowledge in both literature and the arts. Perhaps those who do not appreciate Huang’s works have not read what he has written, and therefore do not see where his merit and knowledge lie. His literature has become the source on which I depend as the philosophy behind Chinese painting. Although Huang focused his writings on Chinese painting, I have applied his philosophies to my own works on oil to transform the way I paint.
Fu Cong (Pang Jiun’s childhood friend) found a photo of one of Huang’s paintings in his home and sent it to me. I created a painting based on this, adding a little bit of color, and thus the first painting from the The Dream About Bin-Hong Huang series was born. I studied Huang’s theories and paintings, and magnified parts of his paintings and focused on them. Initially, I was not particularly keen, nor was I able to understand them. However, upon enlarging particular parts of the painting, I witnessed clearly his purpose and energy. I no longer needed to take reference from his books to create The Dream About Bin-Hong Huang No.3 as I had already become familiar with his brushwork style for depicting faraway landscapes. I did not need much reference to determine the composition, and simply created the piece from my impressions of works by Huang – this was the natural result of my studying of Huang’s works through amplification. I needed no draft sketches, and simply began to draw and paint. I was simply inspired to paint a rock here, some water there, plus a boat…Even though I painted with oils, the way of creative expression was just like that of Chinese ink or traditional paintings; and painted according to what came naturally.”
To express creativity “according to what comes naturally” means that the artist follows innate feelings and impressions. This is consistent with the spirit of Chinese literati painting. When placed within the framework of Western modern art, this may be considered spontaneous creativity or automatic writing. Powerful lines, intertwined and full of movement, are painted onto the canvas firmly and absolutely. Ink transforms into a dreamy landscape. In the absence of draft sketches, brushstrokes flow and follow the swift movement of the artist’s wrist. While Pang Jiun’s works are made with oil paints, each brushstroke echoes those of traditional Chinese painting. Sleek and uncontrived, they emulate what Huang calls the “spirit of vividness.” Pang Jiun embellished the work with multiple seals, adding interest and highlighting its Chinese ink painting-like qualities.
To express creativity “according to what comes naturally” means that the artist follows innate feelings and impressions. This is consistent with the spirit of Chinese literati painting. When placed within the framework of Western modern art, this may be considered spontaneous creativity or free writing. Powerful lines, intertwined and full of movement, are painted onto the canvas firmly and absolutely. Ink transforms into a dreamy landscape. In the absence of draft sketches, brushstrokes flow and follow the swift movement of the artist’s wrist. While Pang Jiun’s works are made with oil paints, each brushstroke echoes those of traditional Chinese painting. Sleek and uncontrived, they emulate what Huang calls the “spirit of vividness.” Pang Jiun embellished the work with multiple seals, adding interest and highlighting its Chinese ink painting-like qualities.
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