The painting brush of the Chinese artist Qianzhang paints easily: mountains, waters, flowers, birds, human figures – there is simply nothing that the brush fails to paint. Above all, it feels most at home when painting hualian.
Hualian, also known as jing, is a major role in China's theatrical performing tradition. In Peking Opera jing includes the categories of leading, assisting and military jing. A particular way of painting jing's face represents a particular identity of the concerned role in a play: it may be a loyal, wicked or good man, or a villain, or a chivalrous hero. The masked face itself is a symbolized work of stereoscopic art. The effort of transplanting stereoscopic art on paper to produce works of plane art is not an isolated phenomenon in the art community. Such work, more often than not, follows one of the two approaches, one of which is to create on paper an exact copy of a masked face, and the other to paint a theatrical figure portrait, casting a particular figure in a mask, quite similar to the work of stage sketches.
Qianzhang's hualian, nevertheless, represents a different approach to painting. Feeling himself from the rigid commitment of being truthful to stereotypical theatrical figures, masks and plots, he paints quite freely and skillfully. His more liberal vision gives birth to the kind of hualian which is characteristically more abstract and more lavishly exaggerated in terms of its symbolic meaning. In this brand-new realm the artist attempts to best reveal the mind and soul of mankind. In his search for a particular mask-painting art, the artist works with a unique understanding for his object of creation. Ignoring the frozen traditional formula, the artist remains dedicated to constructing a bridge that connects the ancient art of hualian mask painting with the psychology of the modern man, brushing out human joys and sorrows. The transition of the theatrical mask art from a plane form to the present stereoscopic model represents the instantaneous flashes of the so-called time-space art.
An intoxicated mind writes no poems. Nor does a completely sober mind. It is also true of painting. The best state of creation is one when the artist is partially drunk and partially sober. When I say Qianzhang's hualian smells of drunkenness, I mean that to be an embodiment of obscure beauty with flowing beauty, obscure as the result of mixing ink and color, obscure but not murk. His calligraphic paintbrushing brings flowing rhythm to the work of mask painting, thus achieving an artistic effect of a harmonious combination of firmness with gentleness, of mobility with tranquility, and of precision with obscurity.