An Undulate World in Pure Colours - Lei Liang's Oil Painting on Rice Paper
About ten years ago, Lei Liang invited me to see his first oil paintings at Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in Wuhan. Although his paintings were drawn fully with pure colours, and his techniques were a little of infantility, his paintings were sufficient for art courage. In the eyes of professionally-trained painters, Lei's paintings could scarcely be regarded as "painting". At that time I also treated his painting activities as a foreign language teacher's hobby at our Hubei Academy of Fine Arts, and I had never thought he would persist stubbornly in the art and orientate his future existence on the orbit of a professional painter. Later, after having abdicated his teacher position at the Academy, Lei Liang went to visit Russia and East Europe, and then stayed in France for a further study and review of occidental oil painting.
After these ten years, he invited me once again to see his paintings that he laid out on the floor, created on rice paper with oil paints in the last years. He painted mountains, rivers and cloud sea, still with pure colours like bright red and bright green, full of simplicity and fierceness, just like primeval chaos of the universe. These paintings have somewhat surprised and impressed me. I have never imagined that a painter, having visited Europe for the research of master pieces and persisted his own continuous art creation, has not at all being disturbed by varied trends outside, and has not altered his original intention to devote his whole anima and fervency in this pure colours land. I can not but revise my previous impression of Lei Liang to re-decrypt his original art world.
Lei Liang has a predilection for abundant and indistinct mountains and large rivers. The mountains and waters painted in recent years is the principal subject in his pure colour world, or more expressly, a designation of Lei Liang's individual art. The mountains and waters do not interosculate any concrete natural landscape. He shows only the mountain arteries and flowing waters tendency, like a crack boatman freely reining innermost being and sentiments to be dramatically represented in the passion apices and valleys. This mountain is no more a mountain, and this water is no more a water. The mountain and water forms for him is in troth an image pattern. The value of matter image leads only the visualization travel through sentimental apices and valleys. There seems a goal that has never outcropped is beckoning voicelessly the painter and instigating him. Therefore, Lei Liang's painting contains strong emotional billows, a tangled combination of despair and optimism, gloom and vehemence, sorrow and joy, and at the same time, there exists a permanent placid as a sangfroid feeling after big sorrow and big happiness experiences, just as he described in these painting titles: "Too Miserable Fate" (950510), "Lots of Miseries in the Past" (950523), "No Woman Recognizes This Nice Future Husband" (950521), "The Worst Known, and the Heart will be Calm" (950921)... These titles are naturally his interior monologue. The equability and equilibration of the conflict and impact is a process of passion release and remission, and no person can arrive to accomplish this special art assembly without idiosyncratic personality and powerful control.
Lei Liang, in exhibiting his interior passion conflict, often roams in his own art world, and it is possible that any exterior solicitation may be snubbed. Although he appreciates the expressive force of western oil colours, he is not at all willing to be bounded within that western colour relation system. He enjoys the self-determination of "Elicitation in Heart", a principle of Chinese traditional mountain-water painting theory, withal, he is not content with excessive serenity and simplicity. Therefore, not indulged in any one of eastern or western cultures, he finally followed his interior propel to choose a road neither eastern nor western. On one hand he brought to his painting western strong and rich oil paints, on another he adopted the vigor style of Chinese mountain-water art system. Only the compulsory integration of agility, placid, colourfulness and dignity can release and assemble the interior passion, that can only be achieved in a profound contrast.
Lei Liang has defined in his painting all the contrast principles by himself. In his painting, we often see unexpected hunches, like carved and hacked rocks, interdicting flowing and gliding air arteries. Plane and floating mountain trends collide immediately with precipitous and vertical brush techniques that are line-like and plane-like. Both of them consolidate each other, leading to a final stabilization. This kind of painting composition is somewhat irrational as we neither find it in natural landscape nor use often in our art theory. Emerged in Lei Liang's painting is his passion, furthermore it is his instantaneous passion, that brings to the painting a vibrancy as human sphygmus generally is the representation of a fresh life.
The most violent conflict is the colours in his painting. On Lei Liang's palette one finds only extraordinary pure colours of bright red, bright yellow, bright blue and bright green, and compound colours are almost totally spurned out of his colour system. When painting, he prefers the usage of contrast colours, and the pure colours that are most difficultly concocted are laid in apposition and jumble on a same canvas. The sky is painted in bright red and orange yellow, and the mountains are in ultramarine and first green (a deepest mineral green approximately emerald). One can always feel from all directions the blast shock of pure colours in paintings like "Syzygying Wind and Cloud" (951212) and "Too Miserable Fate" (950510) where cold colour and warm colour each occupies half part of the canvas. Yellow and sienna paints that are usually used for colour transition were squeezed out from the tin tubes directly, with no mixture, as a result of purity and sonority. Line-like and plane-like tones and strokes suggest only emotional seesaw and undulation, elaborating the soul contrail of his ego monolog. Perhaps no one more than Lei Liang can holds and feels this pure colour world as he is so totally devoted and sensitive to ego interior sight. In contemporary painting circles in China, we can rarely find at present any painter such as Lei Liang, so devoted to his own interior sight without any antiquated conventions.
Lei Liang is a head-to-foot self-studied painter without any systematically professional painting training. Since more than 10 years, he has been solely and wholeheartedly painting and never catered to modern art trends, enduring sentimental solitude and public ignorance for a long time. However, never lost confidence and courage because of the absent treatment in art circles, he obdurately managed his art land held in demesne. In his pure colour art world, there is no lack of bona fides, impulsion, warmth, simplicity and serenity. If you come into this non-grey world, you will factually experience the idiographic psychological journey of a painter.
International Art City, Paris, September 1996
Author Introduction: Luo Shiping, contemporary art critic, director, professor and doctor degree tutor at Art History Department at Central Academy of Fine Arts. He published many Chinese and world art books and theses.
Publication: China Youth Daily, Jan. 19, 1997
English Translation: Lei Liang