Liu Yi
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The Interview: Liu Yi (柳毅)

柳毅艺术家采访

Liu Yi
Liu Yi

Liu Yi is a renowned watercolour artist from Shanghai, member of the China Artists Association and International Watercolour Society. More than twenty of his watercolour artworks won prestigious awards at home and international exhibitions. Liu Yi’s watercolours are held in the collection of museums, local governments, libraries, enterprises, art galleries and international private collections. Mr. Yi is also the author of several books exploring the art of watercolour.

— What philosophy lies behind your artworks?

— I have pure, deep and indivisible feeling towards watercolour painting, which is entirely associated with my individual and specific understanding of “watercolour language”, and my perception of the rules of art.

“In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.”

“Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them.”

“Water Organ”, watercolour, Liu Yi
“Water Organ”, watercolour, Liu Yi

“The best man is like water this is why it is so near to Tao.”

The best man is like water.
Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them.
It dwells in lowly places that all disdain.
This is why it is so near to Tao. – The Tao Te Ching

“Water language” (Pun: In Chinese “Water language” is a short form of “watercolour language”) contains my philosophy of “harmony between a man and nature” in Chinese culture, and also represents my determination to superb watercolour painting.

All my works – “Jiangnan water town”, “Garden Poetry”, “Water Organ”, “Nation fascination” and “Ballet rhythm”, all my watercolour works were created with the medium of “water language” to express the image and create its silhouette and shape.

— How do you prepare yourself to creative process? What inspires you?

Landscape, watercolour, Liu Yi
Landscape, watercolour, Liu Yi

— Creating an artwork in watercolour is the process of searching for beauty and its embodiment. Beauty is the perfection of art, it relates to the “opportunity to communicate people psychological, visual and sensual pleasure and delight, thus influence the beauty of mind” (From the essay “About Watercolour Characters” by Guan Weixing, ed. Chai Yang).

Beauty is an essential part of the artistic content of watercolour painting, as well as the highest artistic form, the criteria of truth and goodness.

Beauty exists in life. The highest moral duty of an artist is to communicate sincere love to life, investing all their talent, knowledge and skills, while intentionally paying attention to life itself and the their perception of life. To see the beauty in life, to grasp its sense, the essence of object and artistic inspiration, colour relationship and esthetical sense of beauty and shape – this is the mission of an artist.

— What artists inspired you in the beginning of your art activity?

Flower, watercolour, Liu Yi
Flower, watercolour, Liu Yi

— Artistic activity requires talent, diligence, eargeness, inspiration, and constanct learning from other artists. I learn a lot from classical Chinese traditional artworks always discovering something new and useful. I follow the Swedish artist's, Anders Leonard Zorn's, example of light and colour interaction, I find the influences of light on colour in his artworks fascinating. I marvel easy, effortless and free manner of painting of the American painter Richard Schmid.

To create an artwork from the scratch and transform dullness into lucidity, to embody the feelings accumulated inside, the artist should have certain preconditions: the value of active progress and education, but most importantly constant learning of life around us, transmission of our experience and feelings, abundant range of sentiments and associative thinking.

— Ballet is a frequent theme in your artworks. Why is it so close to you?

Ballet, watercolour, Liu Yi
Ballet, watercolour, Liu Yi
Ballet, watercolour, Liu Yi
Ballet, watercolour, Liu Yi

— The beauty of the city is expressed not only in its appearance, as it also exists within the culture and ego of the citizens. Ballet is the pearl of the art of dance. It is esthetical, beautiful and sophisticated, and is a classical form of the urban culture. The series of my ballet watercolours is full of rich atmosphere of modernity, but at the same time contains a deep meaning and brevity of classical art. Ballet poetically reflects human beauty and that of characters, and painted in modern urban atmosphere, which is full of elegant sentiments.

The idea of creating ballet series was natural for me. I am very passionate about ballet, because as I child I was brought up with love to ballet. At that time of enrolment at the school of ballet two places for boys were available. The tutor said I had good dance ability and let me pass the exam, however I chose painting before ballet.

I always liked the spirit and sentiments of ballet. That is why when I started to pain portraits I thought of ballet. With the rhythmic body movements, ballet expresses poetry and life awareness, and I am trying to convey it in my paintings.

A man itself is a difficult theme for art, and an artist confronts many technical problems to explore it with the medium of watercolour. It is necessary to evaluate and learn the background of ballet as the perfection of dancing art, and furthermore grasp and transmit the character and spirit of a dancer. Therefore, it s not an easy task and the ballet series for me is a new challenge towards self-improvement.

— What instruments and techniques do you use? Which of the books you published you would recommend for learning watercolour?

Figures, watercolour, Liu Yi
Figures, watercolour, Liu Yi

— Watercolour is a tricky paint and it is not limited to conveying the sentiments of an artist – many watercolour artists know about the difficulties of watercolour painting.

Watercolour is constancy with accidents with the power of spirit, so as an artistic form, which shows the ability of an artist to generalise, synthesise and control the artwork.

My watercolour paintings are full of the “water rhythm” and made with “wet-on-wet” technique.

In my book “Water. Expression-Watercolor by Liu Yi” I give an insight into my watercolour artworks and my understanding of watercolour as an art, as well as the concepts of water rhythm, rhythm of colour, brush, mind and poetry. The watercolour rhythm fascinates with the simultaneous refraction of light and venue, and I convey my way of learning and understanding this art. The first and second editions by Publishing House of Electronics Industry are now sold out.

All photos and images courtesy of Mr. Liu Yi

Official website of Mr. Liu Yi http://www.liuyi.com.cn

1 你的作品背后有什么哲学?

我对水彩画艺术有着非常的纯澈之心和不解之缘,完全是与我对“水彩语言”的独特理解和对其艺术规律的把握相关。

“天下莫柔弱于水而攻坚强者莫之能胜。”

“水利万物而不争。”

“完人似水而近乎大道。”

“水语”包含着我对中国文化“天人合一”思想的哲学思考,也体现了我对水彩画艺术超逸意趣的追求。

无论是“江南水乡”,“园林诗情”,“水风琴”,还是“民族风情”,“芭蕾回韵”, 我创作的水彩画,都是用“水语”来表达我对作品所赋予的意象与境界的。

2 你如何准备创作过程?什么启发你?

水彩画艺术作品的创作是发现美,体现美的过程。

美,指艺术的完美性,指“能给予人们心理、视觉、感官上愉悦享受的,一种冲击人们心灵的美的感染力”。

美,是衡量一幅水彩画作品艺术性含量的重要标志,也是造型艺术中临界于真与善之上的最高艺术形态。

美存在于生活之中。艺术家的天职就是要带着对生活的真挚之爱,凭借着天赋、学识与修养,用心关注生活,用心体会生活,发现美的存在,捕捉美的焦点,包括情感本体的捕捉,创作灵感的捕捉,优美造型的捕捉,色彩关系的捕捉和形式美感的捕捉等。

3 在艺术活动开始时,哪些艺术家启发了你?

艺术创作需要天赋、需要勤奋,需要灵感,也需要学习与借鉴。中国传统绘画的经典之作,浩如烟海,我徜徉其中,受益匪浅;我也追随色彩清朗,造型准确的瑞典画家安德斯·伦纳德·佐恩的足迹,从他的作品中,感受光于色的魅力;我也欣赏美国油画家理查德.斯基米德的轻快与潇洒笔法……

艺术创作的从无到有,从朦胧到清晰,从内心的积淀到艺术作品的表现来看,艺术家的启发有积极的意义,但重要的还是离不开生活的启示,知识的积累,创作的激情,丰富的联想等这些特定的前提条件。

4 芭蕾舞是您作品中常见的主题。为什么这么靠近你?

城市的美不仅表现在它的表象之中,还存在于“城市文化与城市人的自我力量之中”。芭蕾艺术作为舞蹈艺术皇冠上的明珠,她唯美脱俗,是城市文化的经典表现。我的水彩画“芭蕾系列” 既富现代气息,又蕴涵着古典艺术理智的深邃与凝练,诗情地展现芭蕾人物的造型美、意象美,谱写的是充满都市品味和情趣的典雅抒情的散文诗。

萌发创作芭蕾主题的想法,对我来说似乎有着一定的必然性。我自小迷恋芭蕾艺术,因为早在读小学时就埋下了热爱芭蕾舞的种子。那时芭蕾舞学校来招生两位男演员,老师觉得我的条件不错,就让我去应试,但在画画和芭蕾之间,我最终还是选择了画画。

我一直很喜欢芭蕾舞的情调。因此,当我转向水彩人物画创作的时候,立刻想到了芭蕾主题。因为芭蕾这一用身体有节奏的运动来表达感情和生命意识的诗画艺术,与我所追求的水彩画的意境是一致的。

当然以人物作为创作主题,本身就有一定的高度与难度,用水彩来表现芭蕾主题,有许多技术问题需要解决,也有体味芭蕾舞这种高超舞蹈的深度需要钻研,更要有捕捉芭蕾舞演员气质的时机需要审度。所以,实非一件易事。因此水彩芭蕾系列的创作是对自我创作意识的一个新挑战。

5 你使用什么仪器和技术?你出版的哪本书你会推荐学习水彩画?

水彩难画,不仅限于水彩画家的感受,大多认知水彩画的艺术家们都知道画水彩难。

水彩是一种始终贯穿着偶然性因素,充满灵气的艺术样式,也是一种展现画家综合与控制画面能力的艺术形式。正因为如此,几十多年来我被其内涵和魅力深深地吸引着。

我创作的水彩画,是用充满水韵的湿画法来造型的。

《水彩之韵——柳毅水彩画创作手记》以我独特的水彩画作品来解读水彩艺术的水韵、彩韵,笔韵、纸韵、意韵和诗韵。在感受水彩之韵,欣赏其所折射的独特魅力的同时,大家也可以了解我在水彩艺术研究方面艰苦探索的心路艺程。该书由中国电子工业出版社出版,第一第二版,目前已经售罄。

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