Different from Western oil painting, traditional Chinese painting is characterized by unique forms of expression. Its roots can be traced back to paintings on Neolithic pottery 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Since similar tools were used to draw lines for the earliest painting and writing, painting and calligraphy are said to share the same origin. Chinese paintings often include poems and/or calligraphy, and also bear the seals of their owners. Thus the four art forms are integrated, providing a richer esthetic experience. Figure, landscape, and flower-and-bird paintings are the major traditional painting genres in China, with masterpieces of different genres emerging in different dynasties.
Contemporary painting and calligraphy are flourishing too. The National Art Museum of China and similar bodies hold individual or joint exhibitions every year, and many exhibitions of traditional Chinese painting have been held overseas. Chinese artists have also made remarkable progress in Western-style oil painting, woodcuts and watercolors, and many have created works that combine traditional Chinese and Western techniques, adding brilliance to both forms. With various kinds of modern materials, forms, frameworks and genres, excellent modern artworks continue to emerge. New media artworks, including video, digital, animated and audio art, are commonly seen at domestic and overseas exhibitions.Ink-wash painting plays a representative role in Chinese fine arts. It is a typical Chinese painting technique in which a brush dipped in ink or pigment is applied to soft Xuan paper or silk. Normally only one or two colors of wash are used to paint a “world of black and white” on white paper or silk, with rich connotations.
As these ink-wash paintings focus on representing the painters’ soul and their unworldly state of mind, painters generally ignore the principle of perspective to pursue resemblance in spirit. This is a totally different approach from that used in Western paintings.
An ink-wash painting is often accompanied by seal inscriptions and poetry, so it is a unified artistic genre of picture, poetry, calligraphy and seal techniques.