2014 October | Mind-Nature Blended, Identity of Object and Self – Artwork Comments on Cen Long

In my mind, Cen Long not only is tremendously devoted to arts and a pioneer who views arts equivalent to life, but also a mentor with deep learning and cultivation, benevolence, rough life experiences and talents. His work was frequently selected to the National Popular Science Exhibition, Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition, the Seventh National Art Exhibition etc., back in the seventies and eighties, and has already revealed outstanding gifts in the oil painting industry with his solid skills and brilliant talents.

Like most of the artists born in the fifties, Cen Long also grew up under the background upholding Western realistic style, the difference was Cen Long experienced more twists and turns. He went up to the mountains and down to the countryside, serving in the army (never fought in a war, was specially recruited for literary soldiers because of his painting expertise) and ranger (he and his brother could only wander around during the Cultural Revolution because his parents were labeled as reactionary academic authority and were put into the bullpen). However, the good news is that Cen Long liked painting since childhood, and imperceptibly took arts education from an early age. His father, Mr. Cen Jiawu is one of a handful of the nation’s famous anthropology, ethnology, art experts. During his studies in Japan in the 1930s, Mr. Cen wrote “History of Totem Art” which has become a pioneer for Chinese Art Anthropology, his dedicated work is great, and is still considered a classic for academic study and research of Art Anthropology. Obviously Cen Long’s choice for art as his lifelong pursuit was inseparably influenced by his father.

Commentary on Cen Long’s oil painting is under discretions. As the saying goes, “There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.” For me, though not compatible with Confucius’ eating meat but have not any taste for it in three months, I could still be touched by the noble taste and endless emotions through perfect works of the artists and couldn’t forget it for a long time. In short, I think there is a threefold effect that explains Cen Long’s touching artwork: first, abolish artifice and profit, and by artistic skills humanely; second, quiet and reserved, rustic and pure; third, mind-nature blended, identity of object and self.

It’s not difficult to see from Cen Long’s work that he never stopped the exploration and research on the techniques of oil painting, even though a large number of artists abandoned the exploration of pure artistic language in favor of pop art that meets the public consumer psychology and market mechanisms by the influence of Western contemporary art concepts since the 1990s, many of them became rich and famous, while others become art tycoon. These changes and impact have never shaken his faith and pursuit of art. His life in decades are like a day, he worked his brains and mind from early art album to later studies in Japan and Europe, in the original artwork of the ancient masters, from painting tools, materials to colors, lines, structures and patterns, even tried repeated stroke convergence to study the phenomena of nature to acquire performance, he tried to reach his ultimate level of greatness. There is no doubt that if there is no grasp of the language of painting forms and techniques, exploration of tools and materials, great work will not be created. After all, without the skin, what can the hair attach itself!

The study and exploration of oil painting techniques and language greatly enriched the artistic expression of Cen Long’s oil paintings, elevated the artistic taste of his work, and formed his unique artistic personality. If we say that the unique use of yellow tone in oil paintings is Shang Yang, then Cen Long is one of the artists that use gray tones to the most subtlety. Obviously, the use of gray tone made Cen Long’s work magically quiet and introverted, pristine and pure in style and noble in artistic taste, though there are no thrilling scenes and grand narrative shocks, they extremely expressed the concerns of moral bankruptcy brought by modern civilization, the endless grief of tragic death of his loved ones and the hard appeals for finding the eternal humanity and returning to the spirit homes from the artist.

“Mind-nature blended, identity of object and self ” is just another important feature in Cen Long’s paintings, although he used a traditional figurative expression techniques, he listened to only the calls from his soul, he saw only what he wanted to paint, rather than to paint what he saw. Therefore, I think his work has departed from the “realistic” of realism, and more from the spiritual reality of the interwoven loneliness, sadness of heart and lamented life. Like Caravaggio got a realistic rescue by rendering through the painting of his own head, Cen Long built a bridge from reality to ideality with his work to make his body and spirit to have their entrustment.

Author / Zhou Yimin
Zhou Yimin / Art theorist, professor of Hubei Institute of Fine Arts