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Exhibition of Qi's art explores the beauty of simplicity
By Pan Zheng

WITH simple strokes, a vivid shrimp appears on paper, and a cabbage looks like it was just picked from the field - this was the magic of Qi Baishi (1864-1957), a Chinese painting master of the 20th century. An extremely influential and creative art master, Qi created thousands of art treasures in his life.

His works will be featured at an exhibition in Jiading District from today to July 6 when dozens of his masterpieces will be on display at the Lu Yanshao Art Gallery (358 Dongdajie Street, Jiading Town). Admission is free.

The exhibits include painting, calligraphy and seal cutting to show his artistic characteristics and achievements in his different life periods.

Qi Baishi

Qi Baishi (1863-1957) was a famous Chinese painter, calligrapher and seal cutting master of the modern era. He began to learn woodworking when he was 12 and later studied painting while doing wood-carving. Among his first works were portraits that he drew for his neighbors. He also studied poetry, calligraphy and seal cutting. In his 60s, he moved to Beijing and made a living by selling paintings and cutting seals.

In 1963, Qi was named on a list of the world's top 10 cultural celebrities.

Qi's art first focused on elaborate-style painting but later developed a free style, with the idea that "Beauty hides between similarity and difference." This style combined folk art and traditional Chinese ink painting. He claimed he would paint hundreds of birds and thousands of insects, and his works of these creatures were as vivid as alive.

Qi's paintings had two features.

First, he always painted what he saw and put it down on the paper after careful research; second, he always painted common things from nature, such as chrysanthemums, lotus, morning-glory, Chinese cabbage, lychee, pomegranate, chicken, bee, shrimp, crab and fish.

Shrimp was the quintessential symbol of Qi's works. His paintings of shrimp look simple but vivid. He was good at controlling his painting pen to display the structure of shrimp, with its body flexible, its feelers bristle and claws powerful. The shrimps in his paintings look full of life.

Qi's paintings are the fruits of traditional painting art, folk art and his own experience. His artistic masterpieces left a marvellous legacy not only to the Chinese people but to the entire world.

An artist held in high regard

"Qi is an old man who gained numerous artistic achievements with his magnificent painting skills. Qi is just like Shi Tao (a famous painter in early Qing Dynasty), as he can control everything in his paintings and make changes as he wants to create a wonderful world in his works."

- Xu Beihong, famous painter and educator and contemporary of Qi

"Qi's paintings are especially amazing in artistic composition."

- Huang Binhong, contemporary painter and scholar

"Qi's historic contribution is to combine the classical art and folk art, form and spirit, and thoughts and art together. He greatly shortened the distance between painting art and common people's daily life, and explored a new direction for Chinese painting's future. I think that was epic achievement."

- Li Keran, contemporary painter

"Qi turned from a folk artisan to the master of an age. He inherited the traditional painting skills but abandoned its rigid style. He carried forward traditional folk art but put those vulgar elements aside. The elegant characteristics of classical art and the simpleness and honor of folk art composed a new life with his pen, and his vitality, humanism and love to the nature made his paintings a peak for the 20th century."

- Lang Shaojun, art critic

"Qi was not conservative and created new styles through the old ones, adding new tastes into traditional Chinese painting and bringing new power to it."

- Lao She, contemporary novelist, litterateur and dramatist

"Qi was not against tradition in his work. Instead, he drew excellence from tradition and developed it into new stuff through creation. He learned from ancestors' spirit, not skills. He brought new life to bird and flower paintings."

- Yu Fei'an, contemporary painter

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