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Who is Chen Wenguang and What is his History with Nihonga?


CHEN WENGUANG, a major Chinese painter whose unique blend of painting techniques captures an aesthetic that moves beyond the Chinese and regional, into a global dialogue. His paintings are created using oxidized mineral pigments aligning with silver and gold leaf. Using the “Nihonga” approach which is a layering of the natural mineral pigments and metal leaf and traditional Japanese painting. In his painting now on offer – November No. 44 – is the abstracted image of a single lotus leaf and floated against a luminescent surface. Chen has picked up an artistic thread dating from the Ting Dynasty (618-907 ce) in China, when mineral pigment dominated. During this period in China a successful form of government and administration modeled after the Sui Dynasty stimulated a cultural and artistic flowering that amounted to a Golden Age. He has revived its application by re-introducing the technique in contemporary presentation and turned this technique on its (visual) head.

His work became an extremely important link in the history of Nihonga technique. His exquisitely beautiful paintings are unquestionably Nihonga, but also something more…

Having initially trained in China at the Guangzhou University as an ink painter, Chen relocated to Japan in 1985 and spent the next fourteen years mastering what had come to be recognized as a Japanese aesthetic. Under the guidance of the legendary Nihonga Master Matazo Kayama at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts, Chen was able to gain a deep understanding of advanced techniques, which allowed him to develop his own style within this ancient tradition of painting. 

Picking up on the artistic thread of Nihonga’s Chinese history, Chen provides a significant link between Chinese and Japanese art. The artist is considered a major practitioner of Nihonga, a remarkable achievement given the nature of the lineage. Even while presenting uniquely Asian influences, the paintings have a global aesthetic, the strict principals of Nihonga are respected by Chen, but they do not control his compositions. His paintings speak of a thousand years of Asian art as they approach the considerations of a postmodern environment.

In an intriguing twist of history, the technical development of Nihonga can be traced directly back to the blue and green landscape painting style of the Tang Dynasty in China. Chen, who has been a professor at Guangzhou Art Academy for almost twenty years, has brought the technique that passed over a millennium ago from China to Japan full circle, teaching his students the application of mineral pigment and gold and silver leaf. His own art masterfully combines key elements of the traditions of both nations.

Over time, Chen's contribution to this school of art was ultimately widely and enthusiastically embraced by the experts in this field. There is no other artist in the field who creates in this style to this degree of expertise and to his degree – no one does it so beautifully, sensitively and with such great expertise as Chen, The Master.

Links within the Bruvel Fine Arts website for your further exploration:

* Master Matazo Kayama on his student Chen Wenguang

* What is Nihonga Art and Its History?

* Symbolism of the Lotus Flower

* The Influence of the Lotus Flower in Chen Wenguang’s Painting

Wenguang Chen has garnered extensive critical attention in China and Japan as well as a litany of awards and has appeared in a multitude of publications. His work is represented in the collections of numerous museums, including in Japan: Sato Museum of Art, Daiiti Bitjutu Museum of Art, Seisyun Siirakaba Museum of Art, Daiichi Museum and the Japan Wahei (Peace) Nakajima Consortium, Sin Nikou Ltd. Co. In China: Guangdong Museum, including being honored with a solo exhibition as well as the Talent Exchange Center of the State Council.