UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Gan, Ai Lee
Institute: 
National Institute of Education
Year of completion: 
2003
Country: 
Singapore
Country of Research Data: 
Singapore
Language: 
English
Comments: 

An Academic Exercise submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for Bachelor of Arts (Hons)

Abstract: 

This study examined how the spirit of Chinese painting could be attained by 'achieving likeness through unlikeness' through the analysis of relevant literature and visuals, in particular, the artworks of Zhang Daqian. A few keys Chinese terms and their interpretations were provided on the outset to set the tune for discussion. 'Likeness' was perceived as likeness in styles and brushstrokes, as well as likeness in 'qi'. It was proposed that though the former one was obtainable through the emulation of past masters' artworks and mastery of technical skills, likeness in 'qi' was dependable on the artist. Here, 'unlikeness' was attributed to the inner spirit of the painter, said to be manifested through his reinterpretations of past masterworks and innovations; his ability to exercise versatility in techniques; and through the symbolic representations of motifs and certain subject matter in his paintings. In short, this study aimed to investigate whether the spirit of Chinese painting was, to borrow Michael Sullivan's coinage, 'a wedding of spirit and matter'. This study was not meant as a definitive study of Chinese painting, rather, from a personal view of an casual observer and brief participant in the art form Hopefully, this thesis would act as a springboard for future research to address the need to balance the emphasis on 'likeness in spirit' as well as 'likeness in form'; whether artistic purity was maintained in Chinese painting; and finally, to conduct a comparative study between the two art forms, Chinese painting and its Western counterpart.

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