The Significance of “The New Buds of the Lingnan School of Painting” Exhibition

The Lingnan School of Painting flourished in China around the 1930’s. Championed by three artists, Gao Jianfu (1879-1951), Gao Qifeng (1889-1933) and Chen Shuren (1883-1948) who returned from studying modern trends of the art of painting in Japan, these elders professed a style of Chinese painting that would “combine the techniques of the East and the West, and the tradition and the contemporary”. They brought in elements in Japanese and European paintings which emphasized on life and the effect of light into the Chinese tradition, creating a brilliant and unique style of colours and light for the southern style of birds and flowers genre. The three elders also placed high regards to teaching and fostered a second generation of outstanding students, four of whom, Zhao Shaoang (1905-1998), Li Xiongcai (1910-2001), Guan Shanyue (1912-2001) and Yang  Xianshen (1913-2004), came to be known as “The Four Masters of the Lingnan School”.

Today, students of the Lingnan School have spread all over the world. Especially outside China, disciples of the Lingnan School have given rise to a fourth or fifth generation. However, after the death of the last master Yang Xianshen in 2004, many scholars concluded the official demise of this school as originated by the two Gaos and one Chen. Time has changed, and so are some of the original concepts and techniques. The proposed blending of the East and the West has become the inevitable mainstream, just like the experience of  contemporary Japanese painting. Thus, begin in a painting exhibition at Guangzhou in 2002 a new label, “The post-Lingnan School”. As a matter of fact, due to Chinese diaspora in the late twentieth century, the Lingnan School is no longer restricted by territorial demarcations. Many of the fourth and fifth generation of the so-called Lingnan School artists now reside outside China and they carry on the torch. Each one of them proceeds in his or her own creative effort, under the spirit of the Lingnan School, to find a way of their own.

 “The New Buds of the Lingnan School of Painting” Exhibition presented by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver to open on 23 August , 2008 comprises artists from the fourth and fifth generation of this school, including Yvonne Chiong, Ada Chui, Brian Gee, Dawn Gin, Betty Hung, Winnie Lai, Jeannie Lee, Yvette Lee, Yin-To Lin, Donna Lui, Ywai-Sang Yung and jack Szeto. They all pursue in different directions. Some of them have followed other masters and styles of painting even before joining the Lingnan School. Their genres cover the birds and flowers, insects and fish, portraits and landscape. They abide by the traditional emphasis on the skill of the strokes, while experimenting on space and composition, and in their own expressions try to break new grounds by infusing a feel of the contemporary. They bring in a new breath and offer a glimpse into the future of Chinese ink painting. 


Paul Yeung
Cultural Program Director / Chinese Cultural Centre Museum