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Painter Huo Chunyang says the essence of art is eternal and can 'purify hearts', Zhang Zhao reports
For Huo Chunyang, a master of traditional Chinese painting, art is not just about skill but more importantly a philosophy and a lifestyle.
Born in Qingyuan county in Hebei province, the 67-year-old painter is now a professor at the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts and vice-chairman of the Tianjin Artists Association.
In 1997, Huo was elected as one of the top 100 Chinese painters by the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
He said that an artist should sense "the circle of life".
"Chinese painting should interpret life," he explained. "It is the carrier of all sentient beings. "But rather than the shape, Chinese painting focuses more on describing the spirit of lives," he added.
"Chinese culture emphasizes tolerance. Traditional Chinese painting is more about similarity than individuality, although different painters have varied styles," he said.
"So, an artist must devote himself to the practice of pursuing cultural essence that stays eternal and unchanged."
He believes that many of modern concepts of today are merely "detailed explanation of our ancestors' ideas".
While there are varieties of schools among artists, and those who develop new fashions, Huo said they all have something in common that links them from within.
"The various styles are expressions of the cultivation deep inside the heart," he said. "They must be delivered in a natural way.
"To develop a style in the art, you must first be perceptive, then rational, and come back to perceptual in the end - first simple, then complex, and then back to simple again. That is actually the way everything develops."
Huo has made innovations in drawing. One example is the techniques to draw lotus leaves, a popular subject in traditional Chinese painting. Instead of using large areas of ink, he resorts to the combination of dots and curved lines.
While innovation is encouraged today, Huo said that some traditions must be kept so that one can be earnest enough to pursuit the real nature of art and culture.
"Things change on the surface, but in nature, they are the same," he said.
He noted that traditions should not be regarded as constraints, or something decayed, but instead great fortune. "It requires sincerity to hand the traditions down, to achieve a world of freedom in the mind.
"Art can purify people's hearts, and an artist must purify the heart of himself in the first place," he said. "Only when you get rid of all distracting thoughts can you create truly great works."