CRITICAL ANTHOLOGY 2018-06-21T07:30:56+00:00

Ding Ning – Art historian, vice-president of the School of Arts, Peking University.
Quoted from the “Significance and development of portrait painting – Tong Yanrunan recent impression.”

The strength of the portraits by Tong Yanrunan lies not in some dramatic aspect but rather in the faintly discernible absorption of the subject. His paintings make one feel as though the painted person is quietly immersed in his own inner world, yet they leave on one a profound impression. They seem to be drifting between this kind of faint concentration and a vague theatricality, not unlike traditional classical Chinese portraits. That is what makes them so savory and makes people relish viewing them.

Fan Di’an – Vice-President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, director of the National Art Museum of China, curator of China Pavilion at
the 50th and 51st Venice Biennale. Excerpt from his speech at the symposium of the Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting up a Bullockexhibition at Today Art Museum.

The tradition of portrait and human figure painting have been studied very deeply in the western modern art series, and we can see that the image of man has become a very great modern theme, beginning from Francis Bacon, followed by Lucien Freud, Gerhard Richter and to the Italians Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi and Francesco Clement, all belonging to the extremely abundant expressions of portraits. What I think valuable is that Tong Yanrunan has found a format different
from the existing styles of art history, something akin to a patented language.

Gao Minglu – Art historian and curator.
Quoted from “A dialogue with Mr.
Gao Minglu.”

This is just one of my thoughts, which relates to the “the truth of the false” in Yipai (a concept proposed by Gao Minglu in 2007 to replace the western notion of abstraction that doesn’t fit in Chinese contemporary art, especially with the works that are in a style akin to traditional arts). But the “ truth of the false” is not “the similarity of the dissimilar.” Because”similarity” is still perceived from the dual angle of reproduction and contrast, the “truth” is something beyond words and images, it is something unique which has integrity. So it is difficult to imagine what on earth this is. Why do I say integrity, it is not something dull and dry: for example, people come in all sizes, but when it comes to one person, I won’t emphasize their most distinctive particularities or peculiarities, because everyone is totally different.

Gu Zhenqing – Curator of the Chinese Pavilion at 2006 Liverpool Biennale.
Excerpt from “Characteristics of time: Portrait oil painting of Tong Yanrunan.”

In his portraits, Tong Yanrunan judiciously and faithfully expresses the ambiguity and uncertainty of art. Owing to his constant progress in this discipline, he has formed a fresh and particular art portfolio, right at the front-end of contemporary art. An artist who remains committed to pursuing the uniqueness of an artistic language form for a long time will also produce a great individual contribution to the artistic landscape of his times. Tong Yanrunan has never merely pursued the aesthetic feeling of painting, but has also been true to his inner world and constantly guided by a rational spirit.

Huang Du – Curator of China Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale, curator of China Pavilion at the 26th São Paulo Biennale. Quoted from “Tong Yanrunan: The contemporary painting from the classic aesthetic interpretation.”

By forming the character with fluidity and uncertainty in a haphazard and straightforwardly impressionistic way, the artist transformed concrete and specific meanings into imaginary and abstract images. In other words, individual characteristics were converted into a universal meaning of human life.

Hang Jian – Assistant to President of China Academy of Art, director of Museum of Contemporary Art OF CAA. Excerpt from his speech at the symposium of the Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting up a Bullock exhibition at Today Art Museum.

He is a conceptual artist. The works of Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting up a Bullock have originated from Taoist ideas and took 15 years of painting practice to reach dexterous skills and the unity of form and spirit, which are different from the pursuit of creativity that one finds in a lot of easel paintings in contemporary art. In such an exhibition, we might be able to explore many issues on contemporary art, especially in today’s blatant contemporary art scenes; I think the conceptual painting to which Tong Yanrunan has been dedicated for 15 years will also bring us a lot of new things.

Shang Hui – Executive editor of ArtQuoted from “The nature of drawing: presently important themes of contemporary creation of painting language studies that transpire from China’s youth canvas exhibition.”

The Brother Series of Tong Yanrunan uses realistic paintings of the head sculptures of many monomers to express his humanistic concern for those “living creatures.” Those head sculptures undoubtedly have a fresh and vivid gist that stems from the painters’ rigorous understanding and profound grasp of the expressions of the figures, and also from the painters’ swift capture and vivid representation of the spiritual state of the figures in a cursive style. Although only a few strokes are used, the model gravity and spirit are perfectly rendered.

Jia Fangzhou – Curator, art critic. Excerpt from his speech at the symposium of the Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting up a Bullock exhibition at Today Art Museum.

Everybody may notice the same pattern: he paints two or three pieces at the same time and is catching something different in the same model. This is why I would rather call his painting technique “freehand brushwork,” a concept that most aptly describes Tong Yanrunan’s work. Unlike western expressionism, his painting is a kind of expression of Chinese style. He attaches more importance to representation: a kind of cultivate but not neurotic form of expression, and this is exactly a feature of human freehand brushwork.

Jonathan Thomson – Australian art history theorist. Quoted from “The Image within the image: On Tong Yanrunan painting.”

Tong Yanrunan’s work can be regarded as an example of classical Chinese painting technique. Every type of skill mentioned in the famous masterpiece of ancient Chinese painting theory Xie He’s Theory of six principles of painting is used and displayed in Tong’s works. There is a spiritual life and rhythm in Tong Yanrunan’s painting.

Pia Camilla Copper – French curator. Quoted from the History of Etiquette exhibition preface.

His work transgresses the limits of the traditional realistic style, and he breaks down barriers and rethinks technique in such a way that he belongs to this new generation. His portraits of working class subjects are a study in the mastery of the brush combined with the inspiration necessary for conceptual art. His portraits have already marked a step forward for realist painting. In one series, in particular, the portrait hangs in two parts: one of the face itself, and the other, the more marred, less accurate reflection of the same face hung upside down like Narcissus looking into the pond.

Zhang Qing – Director of Academy Department of National Art Museum of China, curator of the 3rd, 5th, and 6th Shanghai Biennale. Excerpt from his speech at the symposium of the Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting Up a Bullock exhibition at Today Art Museum.

The exhibition title is Prince Huei’s Cook was Cutting Up a Bullock. He (Tong Yanrunan) derides himself with the story of this cook, who had been cutting bullocks repeatedly for over 10 years, as though “bullock cutting” had become his painting method and he was that cook himself; but it requires interpretation, analysis and sublimation; I think this is the comprehensive idea of Tong Yanrunan in his painting on the whole world and the social ideology, and he has put his feeling and concept of connotation that he’d like to express from time to time to the tip of his own painting brush. Instead of being stagnant, “cutting up a bullock [as skillfully as] a butcher” is mainly for the upgrade of his own spirit.

Xu Jiang – Vice-President of Chinese Literary Federation, President of China Academy of Art, doctoral tutor. Quoted from “The South Hill, Gullies and Rambling – Tong Yanrunan’s Oil Painting.”

Tong Yanrunan is often in a desultory state when he harbours these vague “figures” appearing suddenly. This kind of “figures” must not be too clear. They need to be treated with the desultoriness of life. Tong Yanrunan and these figures shape each other, and in this way the former is shaped into a furtive roaming soul. Therefore, as we are facing the crowds of silent figures entangled with brushstrokes full of vicissitudes and integrated tinge, we are at the same time sharing Tong Yanrunan’s perspective : that of a furtive roaming soul.