Talking Arts: Youth Koans & Contemporary Chinese Fine Brushwork

By Rachel Wu, February 1, 2024

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Traditional Chinese fine brushwork paintings are often known for their meticulous and realistic depictions, capturing fine details of landscapes, flowers, birds, and figures.

Their subject matter often carries symbolic connotations of virtue and nobility that reflect the idealism of ancient Chinese elites.

In the modern world, this ancient art continues to evolve as urbanization gradually erodes city landscapes with skyscrapers, and technology expedites life pace like never before.

Waterfalls, cranes, hawks, lotus, and pine trees no longer dominate its subject matter. Instead, yoga outfits, drones, and astronauts start to emerge on the silk or paper rolls.

Western painting techniques are incorporated in which traditional color palettes and fine lines are innovatively employed to build a three-dimensional composition.

It then flourishes into truly versatile and individual expressions: classic, romantic, impressionist, expressionist, abstract, you name it.

Regarding its theme, there is more focus on the presence, an in-depth and critical deliberation of individuals within the mechanism of modern society, globalization impacting connections between human and nature, and among humans.

Youth Koans, an exhibition featuring contemporary Chinese fine brushwork paintings, now coming to its 10th year, definitely stays on top of its latest trend.

This year, the exhibition lines up 62 young artists with over 100 pieces of artwork and 2 feature projects to show what really matters in the presence of these rising generations of Chinese artists.

The two feature projects are 'Garden Tour' and 'Pushing Boundaries'.

They are, in a sense, a retrospection of the exhibition in the last two decades, when increasing curation efforts have been placed on modern life and individuality.

'Garden Tour' elaborates on how the changing landscapes in public gardens alter what appears on the painting paper, with the dwindling pavilions and rocks in contrast with the rising number of mechanic leisure facilities.

'Pushing Boundaries' takes the audience directly into the artist's introspection.

It is such an uneasy thinking process, navigating from the ancient through the modern and from the east to the world, that helps the artist discover resilience and inspiration in fine brushwork art.

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Photo by Rachel Wu/That's 


Youth Koans | 10th Fine Brushwork Exhibition of Young Artists 

Exhibition Period: until February 21, 2024

Venue: Guan ShanYue Art Museum

Address: No. 6026 Hong Li Road, Futian

Near Exit D, Lian Hua Cun Station, Shenzhen Metro Line 3/10

Or Exit F2, Children's Palace Station, Shenzhen Metro Line 3/4


[Cover image by Rachel Wu/That's]

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