Yanjie Liu, REDSTAR’s new Art Watch contributor, briefs on the Watercolour Biennale, a cultural event held every other year in Qingdao.

Qingdao actually holds a prominent position with regards to painting in China, and more specifically for its affinity with watercolour painting. Many nationally famous watercolour artists live in the city, and during the summer and autumn it attracts many artist groups who come to paint from life. Watercolour painting exhibitions and seminars often take place in Qingdao, and one of China’s few International Watercolour Biennales is also held here. This thoughtful and beautiful exhibition seeks to show the development of ‘modern watercolour’ in China in parallel with Britain, where the modern watercolour style developed.

It was in the 18th century that watercolour became an independent artistic form in the UK, after which watercolour was widely used as a medium to express thought and depict life. William Turner and John Constable (latter pictured middle left) are good examples of this. ‘British watercolour’ was introduced into China at the end of the 18th century, via Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian missionary turned Chinese court portraitist; its stylistic impact can be seen in the 20th century watercolours of China, and thus this exhibition displays the two countries side by side. A selection of 140 pieces from 21 renowned Chinese painters and 17 British painters, of the Royal Watercolour Society, form this intriguing exhibition, named “Synthetic Colour”.

The exhibition shows an interesting aesthetic intimacy and cultural similarity, but what also shows is the works’ otherness. The definition of watercolour as a medium, the motives of paintings, and the artists’ focus points all showcase differences, which is exactly the significance of this dialogue-like exhibition of two cultures. Artists of the two nations have very different artistic languages. Is there any profound reason for this? Is there a different way of living and thinking involved, or is there more to be seen in the commonalities of the two culture? Explore these questions for yourself at the second Qingdao International Watercolour Biennale.

The exhibition runs until February 28th, at the Qingdao Art Museum, 7 Daxue Road, Shinan district. Tel 8288- 9996; open every day except Monday.

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