Painted in 1959
framed; ink and colour on paper
136 x 68 cm. (53 1/2 x 26 3/4 in.)
The significance of aesthetic appreciation in Chinese traditional figure paintings mostly lies in 'conveying spirit' through techniques of line-drawing or xieyi (expressive) brushwork, while the main function of portraits ranges from preaching 'educational achievements, human relationship supporting' to delivering the refreshment and sensibility of ancient literati. While the appearance of the new and portraits features both modern people as the subject and Western painting techniques, new forms of xieyi (expressive) realism gradually developed. Yang Zhiguang is an explorer of new figure paintings. His early paintings aim to eulogize heroism, while later works shift to glorify beauty. Subjects of unconsciousness, absurdity, violence, among other major themes tend to be exaggerated in both western and eastern modern and post-modern artworks. The characters created by Yang Zhiguang serve to express the glorication of beauty and sincere positive emotion. Yang's understanding of traditional Chinese paintings and brush and ink work can mostly be attributed to Gao Jianfu, while his conceptualization and techniques of realistic expression is mainly influenced by Xu Beihong and Jiang Zhaohe. The development of his comprehensive painting styles of broad academia promotes the creation of portraits that represent 'xieyi (expressive) brushwork of realism'. The work Grass Knitting can be seen as figurative painting with a new look, in which glimpses of Jiang Zhaohe's combination of Chinese and western features can be found. For him, solving the problem of form is the primary concern in traditional Chinese portraits, which emphasize 'conveying spirit' and 'accuracy in form as a precondition'. In this painting, a honorable image of workers is seen through Yang's sketch-like brush lines and partial ink illustration of two women plaiting straw vividly and freely. With the wild and forceful lines, he creates a feeling of a happy and cheerful work atmosphere. The painting as a whole reflects Yang's comprehensive mastery of form, ink brushwork, and sketches of the many aspects of life.