It’s all a matter of perspective…

Spoiler alert: I will be revealing the 2021 Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year as part of this blog post. If you have not been able to see the final and intend to watch it, please read no further at this time.

Last weekend (Saturday 27 March 2021) I was honoured to be asked to present my perspective on ‘Chinese Landscapes I love’ to the Chinese Brush Painters Society. In the end this turned into ‘Influential Chinese Landscape Paintings’, still with the above as a subtitle. I decided that as we were going to have the presentation over Zoom that we had opportunity to look at a very few paintings in some great detail. I, therefore, ended up in the middle of the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127AD) looking at just two Artists with a couple of asides.

The first is the fabulous Guo Xi (1020 – 1098) who was a master of Landscape Painting. He produced many stunning art works, some of which I was very lucky to be able to see when I visited the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.

The painting of Guo Xi’s that I chose to look at was Early Spring which he produced in 1072 and is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Northern Song monumental landscape tradition.

Among many fascinating facts about this piece is that Guo Xi developed a strategy of depicting multiple perspectives called “the angle of totality”. This is one of the reasons why the piece has such aesthetic beauty and why it retains its enduring appeal almost one thousand years later:

Early spring - Guo Xi 1072 158x108cm
Early spring – Guo Xi 1072 158 cm h. x 108 cm w.

The second artist I looked at was Wang Ximeng (1096-1119). His painting is: ‘1000 Li of rivers and mountains (千里江山圖)’. Measuring 51.5 cm high by 1,191.5 cm wide, this sweeping ink-and-colour on silk scroll painting is his only remaining work.

Stretching nearly 12 meters in length, Wang’s masterpiece is impossible to take in all at once and because of its size there is no way I can show the whole painting here as it would simply be too small to see anything (I did try) so I present the tiniest section as a taster. You can actually see a lot more on Wang Ximeng’s Wikipedia entry which I would encourage you to visit:

1000 Li of Rivers and Mountains - Section 3 detail - Wang Ximeng c.1113
1000 Li of Rivers and Mountains – Section 3 detail – Wang Ximeng c.1113

The painting can be roughly divided into six sections. Each section is linked with detailed images of lakes, boats, cottages, pavilions, bridges and many many figures. However, the focus of each section is invariably its striking blue and green mountains.

Again, this stunning piece has multiple perspectives and is endlessly fascinating to look at because of this.

Since its creation around 1113AD, “Qianli Jianshan Tu,” or “A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains,” has been held up as a masterpiece of traditional Chinese painting. But here is a wonderful reminder that just as stunning as the painting itself is the fact that it was created by a teenager. This always reminds me that we must make space to encourage the next generation of painters.

In which case I now turn my attention to something absolutely brand new and that is the 2021 Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year.

After watching a wonderful series, Claire and I were watching the final Commission episode where the winner, Ophelia Redpath, spent time in an area I walked many years ago. It was wonderful to watch the process of her creating her commission but it was when it was unveiled that it became clear that she was absolutely the best person to have won this competition. Her enduring landscape of Dinas Oleu relies, as the Chinese works above also do, on multiple perspective and her interpretation of the beautiful Welsh landscape is sublime. The addition of the Kite is also perfect. I do not believe I will grow tired of looking at this painting as there is so much in it. Like Chinese Landscape paintings it draws you in and I am conscious of stories unfolding in its landscape:

2021 Landscape Artist of the Year Winner - Dinas Oleu - Ophelia Redpath
2021 Landscape Artist of the Year Winner – Dinas Oleu – Ophelia Redpath

I hope you have enjoyed the above paintings and can take something from them to spur you on with your own Landscapes…

Happy Painting,

Paul

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