When Painting Meets Chinese Opera: The Story of Artist Zhu Gang
“Every Chinese opera painting is an artist’s whole-hearted devotion to the representation of a Chinese story.” On August 30th, 2021, Professor Zhu Gang, Head of Shanghai Association of Art Museums, dean of Fine Arts College of Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, and famous opera painting artist, launched his first personal documentary worldwide. The documentary focuses on Zhu Gang’s nearly 40-year career as an opera painter and tells the story of his relationship with Chinese opera.
Opera character painting is a unique art variety in Chinese painting. Artists record the characters and scenes of opera performance in the form of painting while observing the opera performance on the spot. By capturing the moment of opera performance, the story of Chinese opera is vividly expressed.
As an artist born and raised in Shanghai, Zhu studied painting from an early age under Meng Guang, a famous Chinese painter, and art educator. During his many years of artistic career, he has been pursuing the integration of Chinese opera and modern painting, in order to express the traditional Chinese culture contained in Chinese opera. In his works, historical stories such as Lady Zhaojun Departs the Frontier, Drunken Consort, Farewell My Concubine are often the main characters of paintings.
In terms of painting skills, Professor Zhu Gang’s works, through the comprehensive use of the characteristics of Chinese painting techniques such as plain drawing and freehand brushwork, have formed a style of opera painting with strong personal characteristics, that is, the perfect combination of smooth brush and ink, simple and clean pictures, and elegant ink and color. In terms of the philosophical spirit of painting, Professor Zhu Gang often uses white space in his works to express the emotions outside the picture most vividly.
In addition to skills, Professor Zhu Gang emphasizes “heart”. He said, Chinese opera painting has a history of hundreds of years, which requires an artist to paint by heart to keep the lasting charm of his works, His creation for decades is the best annotation of his ingenuity.