Friday, November 7, 2014

Ma Yuan, Clouds Rising from the Green Sea

Ma Yuan, "Clouds Rising from the Green Sea" from Water Album
10.6x16.4 in.

Ma Yuan (c1160-1225) was a Chinese painter working during the artistically rich Song Dynasty (960-1279).  He was one of the most important traditional Chinese painters and remains among the most famous today.  His landscape paintings were incredibly influential and continue to exert an influence over painting and global impressions of Chinese culture.  Perhaps his most famous technique was his tendency to focus the content of a scene in the lower corner of the painting, which gives the scene an entirely different perspective and relationship with the viewer.  Ma Yuan had a diverse style, including elaborate landscape scenes and explorations of complex philosophical themes, such as people's relationship to nature.  The ink painting I have chosen is a fairly simple piece in comparison, merely showing rolling waves, however I was quite taken with it. Ma Yuan demonstrates a remarkable ability to portray movement in this piece.  The waves also look like blowing sand, or knotted wood, and the water seems to contain tangible depth.  Ma Yuan also successfully communicated the receding space as the water fades into the fog and clouds. The delicacy of his brush and the energy of his lines make this a beautiful piece that expresses the tranquility inherent in this constant movement.

I set out to write about a premodern Chinese painting today and ended up choosing this one. There were of course many beautiful pieces that I looked at and I thought I'd include a link to my second choice: Shen Zhou's Lofty Mountain Lu from 1467.

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