|Xiao Haichun's painting on rice paper (Chinanews.com)|
It is very difficult to track artist Xiao Haichun, because he is a rare urban animal who doesn't have a mobile or name card.
Since the early 1990s, Xiao has been a virtual recluse, either working in his studio on mural-like landscapes or traveling in mountain areas to sketch.
The current exhibition takes visitors into the essence of traditional ink-wash painting.
On entering the exhibition hall, one is greeted by an awe-inspiring landscape on rice paper, measuring 26 meters by 12 meters. It depicts mountains, flowing mist and a forest filled with autumn colors of red, rust and gold.
Large-scale paintings on rice paper are daunting because they seem to lose the qi, or energy flow from the artist's brushstrokes.
"There is no secret, since I copied many masterpieces by our ancestors to find the 'treasure' inside," says 68-year-old Xiao. He paints in a 700-square-meter studio and uses a hydraulic lifting platform for large works.
"Material civilization invades our living space and though we live in the city, we are eager to return to the nature, wandering among trees, rivers and mountains," Xiao says. "Sometimes I envy our ancestors. They were so close to nature and free to pick up their brush to depict whatever stretched in front of their eyes."
Works are both traditional and infused with some Western painting techniques, such as Seurat's tiny dotting and Cezanne's use of light and shadow.
"Don't regard tradition as counter to creativity," Xiao says. "Once you thoroughly absorb tradition, inspiration comes naturally."
The exhibition reflects Chinese landscape painters' focus on rocks and trees.
"Rocks and trees are the basic elements in landscape. I spend most of my time trying to paint them as perfectly as I can, which is almost like self-cultivation," Xiao says.
Date: Through September 11, 9am-5pm
Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.Shanghai