REVIEW – Painting's Language
“Raphaelite Now” exhibition 2005

HOBART-based painter Chen Ping has come a long way both geographically and artistically since he first developed an interest in painting as a young child in southern China.

Chen’s latest exhibition of bold and imaginative landscapes and figurative paintings, Raphaelite Now is currently on display at the Salamanca Collection in Salamanca Place.

Chen grew up in Canton and was inspired by his uncle who was a famous traditional Chinese artist.

“I used to learn from my uncle and originally wanted to do traditional Chinese painting using brush and ink,” he said.

“It is really not so different from what I do now because it uses broad strokes. From him I learned how to use the ink and the substance of the brush stroke, the effects it has. He also did figure paintings which gave me an interest in that.

“Most people think traditional Chinese art is different from Western art, but the more I practiced and developed the language of painting the more I discovered the stroke quality and wash effects I now use are similar. They both have strong rhythms and content.”

Chen said it wasn’t an easy life growing up in China because of economic circumstances, but he was generally happy, and his parents encouraged him to pursue his ambition to be an artist.

He studied fine arts at Guangzhou University where there was a strong Russian influence.

“That meant there was a strong emphasis on realistic styles,” he said.
“I learned what I was taught, but I didn’t really like it and refused to accept it because it was very restrictive.

“However I got to know the Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel and I paid more attention to his work which was quite mysterious.

“My most important influence was Zao Wou-ki who was a friend of and has been ranked along with Jackson Pollock. His work is all about how to use the material and contrasting textures to reflect the quality of landscapes rather than an exact representation.

“That is what I try to achieve through my paintings.”

Chen moved to Sydney from China to continue his studies and while there visited Tasmania for a holiday.

“I found myself very much at home here and liked it so much I decided to stay and study at the art school here,” he said.

“I always like to learn and the art school enabled me to do that. It has also given me the opportunity to meet interesting, creative and dynamic people.
“It has helped me develop my own language. Before my painting was too strong without enough contrast. The different aspects tended to cancel each other out. As soon as I started to bring more subtle qualities in and use washes it gave better contrasts and made the strong strokes stronger.”

Chen said he loved the Tasmanian landscape.

“I live on the Eastern Shore and really enjoy watching the sun set over the river and mountain every day,” he said.

“I have also visited the Gordon River and loved the landscape there.”
Chen said many of his paintings were figurative.

“Art is like writing or speaking. It tells people the ideas of your mind,” he said.

“Contemporary art is the result of the language through which artists use any possibility to speak about their understanding the society in which they live.

“Figures communicate with people and I find many people say they identify with them.

“The paintings are not of any particular people. They are symbolic and express some of my feelings.

“For example the beauty and innocence of my daughter is contrasted with the tension of modern life. Some of the paintings have strong light, like a neon light, which shows the harshness of modern life and I worry about what the world will be like for my daughter.”

Chen said his aim was to continue to develop the `language of painting’.
“These recent works are my attempt at developing languages which can express my anxiety of these changing times,” he said.

“The elements in the pictures are desperate efforts to let audiences notice the information coming across to them. Figurative and abstract elements enjoy the same degree of importance within the pictures.”

Raphaelite Now is on at the Salamanca Collection until Tuesday.

Penny Thow

Figures, landscapes, and other contemporary paintings
by Chen Ping (Ping Chen) of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Chen Ping (Ping Chen), Australian artist and Tasmanian artist, creating Chinese contemporary art in Hobart.