Since the re-beginning of her painting, Yuan has attempted to find innovative methods of Chinese painting by using the tradition as the foundation and incorporating skills and concepts she learned from Western art. She once said, “I started late. Therefore, I just use whatever ideas I can think of one after another in the hope of starting some interesting and inspiring discussions.” From her early Amazing landscape series, strong-color Observance of the New Year in meticulous brushwork, Affinity series inspired by layers of ancient silk fabrics from the Song Dynasty to the sense of dynamism used to break the static nature of Chinese painting, and to her most recent works, such as the Rock, Bronze Ware, and Home series, she explores more possibilities of subject matters and colors in Chinese painting in addition to her innovative experiments of the expression methods. In her words, “Strong colors are the colors of this era. All the bright colors, such as colors of shining neon lights on the street and colors of strong contrast found on billboards, should also be seen in the paintings.”
—Excerpts from this book, P5
In 1997, there were two major changes in Yuan’s ink painting. The first one was the use of materials. Her preference gradually changed from ink on paper to strong colors on silk for this material allowed for multiple layers of color application. The second one was the change of her themes and compositions. Landscape was no longer the major theme of her works. As she used more strong colors, she started to paint more flowers, plants, insects, human figures, or even her own imaginary scenery, creatures or objects. In this stage, her works were full of intriguing novelty and ingenuous creativity. In addition, she added a sense of rhythm in her lines to render a sense of dynamism in her composition, which can be seen in her work Shifting Hills. She would also create richness and flow in her compositions by putting the depicted objects, such as petals, drapery and folds in textiles, giving the compositions a sense of interesting intricacy and dimensional depth.
—Excerpts from this book, P47
List of Works 210
About Yuan Jai
Yuan Jai was born in 1941 in Chongqing, Sichuan Province. She was born into a family of art and culture. She grew up immersed in Chinese calligraphy and painting. In 1958, she entered the Department of Art, Taiwan Provincial Normal University (today's National Taiwan Normal University), where she laid a solid foundation of Chinese painting by learning from many masters, such as Pu Hsin-yu and Huang Chun-pi. After graduation, she went to Europe for further studying. After she obtained her master degree in Archeologie et Histoire D'art from Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, she entered Belgium's Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique and learned professional preservation and conservation of cultural relics. Yuan returned back to Taiwan in 1968 and joined the Department of Antiquities of the National Palace Museum. She was in charge of establishing the Office of Technology, the first office dedicated to conservation of cultural relics in Taiwan, in which she contributed what she had learned abroad to the museum and also had the opportunity of viewing masterpieces of Chinese ancient and modern arts.
Yuan Jai did not resume her painting until the age of 45. Since the re-beginning of her painting, Yuan Jai has attempted to find innovative methods of Chinese painting by using the tradition as the foundation and incorporating skills and concepts she learned from Western art. Elements from traditional Chinese painting and amboyant modern strong colors are comfortably combined in Yuan Jai’s paintings. From her early Amazing landscape series to her most recent works, she explores more possibilities of subject matters and colors in Chinese painting in addition to her innovative experiments of the expression methods. Yuan Jai's art unquestionably manages to bridge the yawning gap between Chinese traditional painting and Western art, and she has laid out a contemporary art world for the Chinese of the 21st century.
Photo by Wen Peng
Image and Text: the shop, ©Authors, the shop, 2019
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