Gu Kaizhi was an ancient Chinese painter, art theorist, and self-aware artist. He was the particular because he showed a new attitude towards art and depicted in spiritual terms. Gu Kaizhi belonged to the Wei-Jin period that was characterized by the birth of art theory and a new trend of thought. Gu Kaizhi was a great inspiration to people of his time and future generations because his spiritual perception of art. Ku Kaizhis painting was characterized by ornament beauty and artistic expression. Consequently, it is evident Ku Kaizhis painting was the symbol of a shift from art as a profession to painting as a real form of art with the help of the interaction between humans and nature.
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Ku Kaizhi as Innovator in Painting
Gu Kaizhi was not only talented in painting but poetry, history, and calligraphy. Consequently, his erudition made his paintings more meaningful and richer. He was famous for his figures and portraits but also landscapes. The most prominent his works are the following: Chop Guqin, Ladies of Beneficent & Wise in History, Nymph of the Luo River, and Nushi zhen. Zhang Yanyuan said that Gus brushwork was fast like thunder and winds, circular, continuous, immediate, and compact (Gu Kaizhi n.a.). The artists stated that his paintings looked like the stream on the ground, the cloud floating in the sky, and the silk spun by spring silkworm. Consequently, Gu Kaizhi had an authentic style that impressed, charmed, and inspired. One can say that this painter managed to make the transformations in the Chinese art using the landscapes and its importance for the human world. Gu Kaizhi was a unique personality as he specialized in many forms of art. Consequently, his paintings could be understood as pictures, the scene from life of Chinese people, and dramatic piece that expressed feelings and emotions.
The key objects of his paintings were mountains, mists, trees, and flowers. Gu Kaizhi addressed to the modern viewers developing his painting at the early stages and being an innovation for the future generations. Gu Kaizhi stressed the importance of giving people sense of livelihood and spirit via nature. He was more interested in spirit rather than form. However, his attention to the small and particular details made his pictures masterpieces and created the necessary atmosphere. Gu Kaizhi could find the unusual in the usual things that were depicted and described before adding more dramatism, events, feelings, emotions, and culmination.
The distinguishing feature of Kaizhis art is that it is based on the traditional Chinese philosophy, and that is why he depicted the nature and its landscapes as a personality that has feelings and emotions. His painting was more limited to the scrolls. Kaizhi tried to show the effect of light in his pictures paying less attention to the composition, shadow, and the effects of color. He was more limited in the choice of color. However, Kaizhi preferred the effects of positive and negative space and balance and imbalance. Kaizhi created his unusual and very sophisticated art through the natural motifs and their interactions with human beings. Consequently, he was the example for many Chinese artists.
Gu Kaizhi as an artist promoted the cultural values. Natural objects and geometric ones are the most used themes for depicting in Chinese art. All objects are based on symbolism, ambiguity, and implication and reveal the subject of the unity of people and nature.
The Nymph of the Luo River
The Nymph of the Luo River is one of the most famous Kaizhis paintings. The Nymph of the Luo River is in Freer Gallery of Art, Washington. This work is performed on the silk of 17, 1 x 572, 8 cm. This picture is based on the theme of the poem by Cao Xhi. First, one should say that Gu Kaizhi showed the development of the Chinese art as he managed to depict the transition from figure painting in religious and historical contexts to landscape painting (Gu Kaizhi n.a.). The peculiarity of The Nymph of the Luo River is that mythological and human figures are dominated here in the background of the beautiful landscape. However, it is evident that nature receives not less growing attention representing the interest to the natural all-encompassing power.
In this painting, the contrast dominant is nature and its importance to people. It is placed in the foreground. However, the plants surround the mythological and human figures making them less crucial. The combination of the different figures and pastel colors makes this painting peaceful and calm. The characters of The Nymph of the Luo River are the nature, human figures, and mythological figures. It is evident that they are in the harmony between each other creating the friendly and peaceful atmosphere. The style of this painting is revealed through his method of drawing, coloration, pictorial composition, and narrative structure. The technique used for The Nymph of the Luo River is brushing drawing that is not monochromic. Consequently, minimal coloration stresses more attention meaning and ambiguity of the painting.
This picture refers to the period of 345-406. It means that it is an ancient painting that is the exemplary artwork for the contemporary art. It is a narrative painting in two senses: the author shows the beauty of nature; the painter depicts the interaction between nature, human figures, and mythological figures. The lighting of this painting is the combination of the high and low key. It is organic as the depicted events take place in the daytime. Consequently, the sun reinforces the theme of nature. The lighting surrounding all characters gives a visual value to this painting. The main colors used by in the painting are yellow and brown. These are warm and calm colors that express fertility, warmth, and friendship. The color of the hair of people is black. Consequently, black color creates the contrast and underlines the human figures in the nature background. The combination of all elements and techniques in the painting coming together symbolize the unity of human being with mythological figure and nature. Nymph is the protector of the river. Consequently, people look for the ways to collaborate with her. The river symbolizes inferiority and eternity. The trees symbolize life.
The reasons for the importance of all these symbols is expressed through the visual techniques, play of color and lighting. This painting is medium. However, the events depicted there make it bigger and widen it visually. There is a beautiful flow between the natural world and human one. It is evident that the artist wanted to show that the human beings should respect nature and its mythological creatures that are the part of nature. From the first sight, it is a typical Chinese painting. However, such details as river, trees, sun, human beings and mythological creatures make it unique. The painter uses the sketchy lines to draw the characters. It means that there is no the exactness in the world. Everything is relative and preconditioned. However, the natural objects are more expressive and precise. It becomes obvious that everything depends on the natural world. The brushing style used by the painter makes this painting more elastic and stylistically rich. The lines of the picture are of the aesthetic quality and dependent on the theme of the artwork.
Every detail from the diversity of characters to the natural surrounding proves the breadth of the painting and depiction of every object as a small and important painting with its own meaning and form. The Nymph of the Luo River has the narrow and horizontal proportion. The characteristic features of the work are the following: simplicity, abstraction, minimalism, conceptualization, and imagery.
In conclusion, one should say that Gu Kaizhi is not only the representative of the ancient painting but also the innovator and driving force of the painting as the form of art. His works were both technically rich and meaningfully fulfilled. As a result, he inspired other artists for glorifying the Chinese art. The Nymph of the Luo River is the most colorful and meaningful artwork that depicts the theme of nature. All the characters used by the painter are symbolic and help to reinforce the unity of humans and nature. Gu Kaizhi is a driving force of Chinese art that makes it more unusual, unpredictable, and extraordinaire. Gu Kaizhi has brought many new forms, styles, techniques in the Chinese art. One should name Kaizhis painting an important instrument that gives a birth to new talented and skillful Chinese artists. One should mention that the work was based on perception and cultural background of the audience. Minimalism and abstractness reinforced the depth and symbolism of the depicted objects. The beautiful composition of this painting is created with the help of lightning, color palette, brushstrokes and tone. As a result, The Nymph of the Luo River is not only an artistic expression of the relationships between humans and nature but the dramatic expression of their interaction and influence.