2015 May | FAS 15 x FOCUS

Realism in recent times seems to have become an alternative style of painting. People favors more abstract, deformed, or more decorative or installation art. However, since the appearance of painting, realism has been associated with human survival and evolution, it was never interrupted nor did it ever disappear. People are used to appreciate those painting that interprets what is related to their real life, what is familiar or from and ideal environment. Over the past decades, realistic painting focused on plot, specific objects and character description, as well as religious, fabled and narrative contents. Today, along with advances in transportation and communication, the geographical gap has shrunk; people pay more attention to the spiritual and common emotional expression. Abstract art forms make it easier to reach a shared spiritual satisfaction, because these forms bring greater imagination space than the realism style.

So far, however, realist painting is still a means of artistic expression, whereby the larger audience can instantly understand. It can directly reflect and be close to life, having an irreplaceable affinity. But in modern times, this style and the traditional ways have undergone fundamental changes. Plot and narratives are fading away; the exploration of the spiritual essence of the composition occupies the main part.

CEN Long is such a realist painter. Born in China, he lived in France in his childhood. He was an active participant of the Chinese art reform’s movement around the mid-1980s, the so-called “the ’85 Movement”. Similar to other contemporary popular Chinese painters, his early paintings inspired from modern Western painting have been created by adding familiar elements of his life. At that time, he was surrounded by countless imitators.

As times changed, when many Chinese painters around him turned to Political Pop, they used ridicule and ironic ways to integrate into the painting trend of the world and obtained very impressive achievements. But he suddenly rested, because he worked on introspection.

Since then, CEN Long has not stopped traveling and deliberately stayed close to locals. He found, in every corner of the world, in the northwestern China’s ethnic minorities, southern fisherman. He surrounded himself with ordinary people, French Brittany shepherds, Japan’s Seto Inland sea’s fisherwomen, or Ukraine Chubb Roche farmers; all had innocent, kind and honest features. These qualities have always been a special part of CEN Long’s precaution since his childhood. These simple people deeply touched him and he respected them.

After having remained silent for a long time, he decided to explore a different route from today’s so-called contemporary Chinese artists’ one. He hoped people around the world could recognize the most beautiful essence in Chinese painting. He would not just imitate and plagiarize Western art as did the mainstream. He hopes to tell the world that in China there are also sincere artists, who can use their brush to explore mankind’s simple and kind spirit.

He continues to take a close-to-life realist approach, but displays more abstract inner spirit to represent the meaning. He also decided not to consider what is contemporary and what is classical, what is advanced and what is obsolete. He just wants more people seeing and experiencing his understood truth, righteousness and beauty. He believes that this must be the message that people are mostly keen to obtain from art creation.

Professor HUANG Zhuan, famous art critic, once commented CEN Long’s art. I would like to borrow this statement to end CEN Long’s artistic expression and pursuit: “employing the themes such as northern farmer, sailing fisherman and even monk and Xinjiang’s nomadic ethnic group, he highly integrates principal imagination and natural description to describe an ideal world of self-contained and symbolic meaning, making an effort to create a personal utopia that reaches a similar height as a religion.”

Author / Metra Lin