ART SHOW IN MALAYSIA 2001           

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Dialogue with Chen Jiqun

The artist and Ms. Yuen Chee Ling


Dialogue with Chen Jiqun

Yuen Chee Ling  M.F.A

Director. Conservatory of Fine Arts






When I fist met Chen Jiqun 1992 at the Xu Beihong Studio Artists Touring Exhibition organized by Taiseh Penang. I was captivated by the refreshing colours and serene atmosphere of his oil paintings which focused mainly on nudes and Mongolian imageries. Chen Jiqun had held 4 successful solo exhibitions in Penang and Singapore. He has received both local and international acclaims as one of the earliest painters to explore into the context of Inner Mongolian grassland. More than 300 of his oil paintings have been collected by local and governmental organizations of China as well as many private individuals from different countries including Malaysia, Singapore, HongKong, Japan, Korea, France, England, USA and others.

Chen Jiqun, who had left Beijing for Inner Mongolia in 1967, a year after the creaking out of the Cultural Revolution, had since then stayed in Inner Mongolia for 13 years and married there to a Mongolia wife. When he returned to Beijing in 1980, Chen Jiqun found himself lost and unhappy in adjusting himself with the political situation and the evolution of the changing seasons and time. He missed also the carefree lifestyle that he had experienced when he was once a shepherd.

This year, in the flowering season of May, Chen Jiqun revisited Penang. While watching Chen Paint the blossoming lotus in the garden of my house, I had the opportunity to interview the artist. He revealed his vision on art and life to me as an old friend. For Chen Jiqun, then, every artist has a spiritual role to play.


Yuen: During the 60s, you were a student of the Central Academy of Fine Art Integrated High School, can you tell more about this unique system of education which was introduced in China?

The Central Academy of Fine Art Integrated High School was  established in 1958. Each year, out of all the candidates in China only 30 students were accepted for this programme.


Yuan: What were the subjects you studied?
Chen: The art curriculum of the Central Academy of Fine Art Integrated programme was a rigid system which was established upon the institutional art training system in Russia that focused on the fundamental disciplines of fine art including drawing, sketching, art history, etc.
Yuen: How did you go to Inner Mongolia? Is there anything to do
with the political situation and happenings at that time? In
Mongolia, did you catty-on with your painting?
Chen: The effect of the cultural revolution caused an abrupt end to our study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts Integrated High School. Society was in a chaotic state. At a time when reality was most severe, I left Beijing together with 5 classmates... We finally arrived in Inner Mongolia. It was such a relief when we saw the greenery of the beautiful grassland of Inner Mongolia. I always consider myself very
lucky that I have seen this beauty of the grassland and the native folk who were by nature compas sionate and kind. The refreshing grassland was the 'coeanser' for our spirit and mind... After two years, I started to paint again.
Yuen: Beijing is distinctly contrasting to Mongolia, is it the reason why you always have good feelings when you recall your experiences related to Mongolia, or is it because of personal bias?
Chen: To compare with life in Beijing when one is constantly confronted with high-rise buildings, heavity congested traffic, commercial heart yearns for nature and serenity.
Yuen: How many of the young students were in exile during the cultural revolution?
Chen: There were about 30,000,000 young students in exile.
Yuen: After the cultural revolution, there was a revival for the interest in oil painting. The middle aged oil painters had begun to search for new subject matter and many had explored into the context of the minority tribes. Were you one of them who were affected by the new art trend and was that how you started to paint the Mongolian series?
Chen: The reason I paint the inner Mongolian prairie is because I an familiar with the place and the peopel. The more I understand the history of the place, the more I feel a deep sense of Mongolia where I once lived and enjoyed.
Yuen: You have injected in your paintings the sentiments of calmness and a sense of detachment, which is unusual for a China artist. What is your concept related to your artistic expression?
Chen: I like to convey my personal feelings and my personal perception of beauty... I like to share these feelings and perception with my friceds and the viewers of my paintings. To safeguard the pure spirit of my inner self and to take care of the last and only remaining grassland...
Prtception related to art and aesthetic..
Yuen: What is your intention in terms of techniques and concept?
Chen: My intention is to express my feeling of love and nostalgic sentiments in relation to the prairie. To achieve this, I have exploited the
 aesthetic concept and techniques of Corot, and the French Expressionist masters to delineate the natural landscappe of Inner Mongolia.
Yuen: Durion the 90s, you had solo exhibitions in Singapore and Malaysia. How did you make it to this part of the world?
Chen: I like to travel to different parts of the world. In the 80s, I continued my art training at the Xu Beihong Ptinting Studio. As my painting
 were sold in Singapore, I was recommended by Madam Liao jingwen, wife of the late Xu Beihong to hold exhibitions in Singapore and  Penang...
Yuen: What is your opinion about the development of art in Malaysia?
Chen: This trip, I find a great improvement in the works of the local Malaydian artists. I have met some bery hard working Malaysian artists  whose artstic achievements are at the forefront of Asian art.
Yuen: You art a professonal artist in China and a professional artist in Malaysia?
Chen: Personally I feel that the professional artists in China lack the opportunity to interact with artists from sther countries.
Yuen: You have been to Paris, how would you compare the art scene in Paris with Asia?
Chen: In Paris, the artistic atmospere is not only free and open for art but also there is a general awareness and care foe conservation and  preservation of art and culture. There are numerous museums and galleries... I visited the Barbizon and the Forest of Fontanbleau. I find the  people there distinctly different from the Asians in culture. They love art and freedom and they are as sentimental and romantic as the
Yuen: What is most important to you as an artist?
Chen: A genuine interest.
Yuen: The Neo-realism in China focuses on the themes related with "Heroic essence and classical beauty" fused with a melancholic mood. Do you think this is a reflection of the sentiment of the people of contemporaty China?
Chen: When reality in the social and political environments is severe and harsh, many artists had to find solace in drowning themselves in the solitude world of idealism and employ the techniques of Neo-Classicism.
Yuen: When you paint a figure, what is your main emphasis?
Chen: I focus on the colours and characteristics of the subject. I prefer to get to know the person first before I start to paint, as I need to inject a personal sense of feeling into my art.
Yuen: Female figure, landscape and animals, which is your favourite theme?
Chen: I like all these three subjects which give me good feelings. As it is natural for man to appreciate beauty, I like to share my perception of beauty and my good feelings with all the viewers... to call-forth the imagination of people....
Awareness of the grassland
Yuen: Of all the turbulences of life that you have gone through, which one has caused the greatest impact in your life?
Chen: The period of the cultural revolution and my life experiences in Inner Mongolia are the most drastic and unforgrttable. The writer Zhang Yanbin who was together with me in Inner Mongolia had recorded our experiences in her recent novel. The Mongolian TV had produced and broadcast a series "Second Homeland" which focused on my experience in Inner Mongolia.
Yuen: Is this TV documentary series mainly focus on you? Why?
Chen: Yes, the documentation is based on my experiences in Mongolia, the places that I have painted. I supposed it is because I am the first oil painter in China who has focused on Inner Mongolia grassland.
Yuen: How do you feel?
Chen: I think it is important for people to be aware of the reality related wuth the Grassland of Inner Mongolia. Ihope that my art and my experience will remind people of the beauty of the prairie as there is an urgent need to preserve this last and remaining grassland of the world.
( June 7, 2001, Conservatory of Fine Arts, Penang )













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