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State of a Chinese artist’s mind

Lin Qi
Updated: Jul 7,2015 9:48 AM     China Daily

Yin Zhaoyang’s solo show in Beijing reflects his newfound vision. Highlights include Cold Forest and New Mountains and Sea Classics.[Photo/Provided to China Daily]

A Chinese artist puts his inner world on display through a series of sketches.[Photo/Provided to China Daily]

As a representative of the post-1970 generation of Chinese artists, Yin Zhaoyang rose to stardom through his oil paintings that are characterized by some degree of pain from his youth.

Many of the 45-year-old painter’s earlier works also reflect his anger at the world. But in the past few years, Yin has captured a lot of “thrilling moments” in his life on paper. And while he skips meticulous details in objects he sees, he uses charcoal to show the thoughts exploding in his cosmos.

Yin’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to such sketches, titled Images on Paper, displays his series of drawings this year-Cold Forest and A Writer. The show is ongoing in Beijing.

In them, he doesn’t seek to outline a perfect shape or vivid colors. Instead, he fills paper with intense ink lines. His charcoal strokes create the wrinkle-like effect on canvas that’s normally associated with Chinese ink-and-water paintings. In addition, he heavily scars some drawings with knife cuts. The final texture manifests a mental aftermath of the tension and agony he has unleashed.

“Destroying is in another sense a way of creating,” Yin says.

“But it’s not a necessity. It matters whether the act of destroying makes sense to what one wants to express, whether it makes the work a breathtaking piece.”

In his drawn works, Yin exposes the psychological complexities of people today and softens the anxiety of our times through primitive simplicity.

“Flipping through piles of drawings and watercolor works he created in different periods, I felt like I’m peeping into Yin’s lesser-known world,” says exhibition curator Fang Zhiling.

“He presents a self-corrected public image in his sizable oil paintings, which touch serious social issues and emit astounding powers. While his works on paper-often completed within a few or a dozen minutes-show his carefree side in private.”

The earliest drawings he made, Yin recalls, were in his childhood while returning home from school. He scribbled on a white cement wall, which now no longer exists, in his native Nanyang city in Central China’s Henan province.

He doesn’t remember what he drew back then, but he still cherishes the sound of pencil scraping the rough surface of a wall, he says. But the fun turned into boredom by the time he reached high school, and he had to put in a lot of practice to prepare for entrance exams to art colleges. The daily routine of drawing almost killed his interest in the subject, Yin adds.

It was during his studies at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts that Yin found what he had learned about drawing was misleading. He started to rework his understanding of technical issues. Meanwhile, he also saw through the mystery of paintings: One doesn’t seek visual perfection but, more importantly, an artist draws to express his or her sentiments.

“The process of drawing is more like taking a course on how the mind works. When an artist picks up a pencil and looks at a piece of paper, he not only visualizes his imagination but also converses with his soul,” he says.

“People say that a pencil is the extension of one’s nerves. I think my works trace my spiritual evolution.”

His exhibits-sketches and watercolor works-show his psychological transformation over the past decade, during which contemporary artists in China struggled with an immature market.

The severely wounded half-man, half-beast figure in Yin’s watercolor series Hurt, for instance, reflects his state of mind in 2006, when he was seen as an ambitious star artist.

“Yin mostly draws for himself. Hence he is more sensitive to the idea of sketching everything he feels. These drawn works may not be mature but are more vigorous and straightforward,” Fang says.

If you go

10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, Mondays closed; through July 13. Lelege Art, B03, Ground Floor Store, 66 Xiaguangli, North Road of East Third Ring, Chaoyang district. 010-8446-7702.