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The Values of Zhu Yanmo's Landscape Paintings   by Henry Li

The Values of Zhu Yanmo's Landscape Paintings

by Bai Yuzhao

In the field of Chinese painting and calligraphy, I am just a collector, but I have learned some professional knowledge in the process of collection. In my opinion, too many theoretical anal-yses would restrain my intuition. Even though with insufficient knowledge, I still have the impulse to express some opinions when it comes to the works of Zhu Yanmo.


Among all his works, the ones fascinate me most are the landscape paintings with and clouds. With a close look of Mr Zhu's brushstrokes, the imposing feeling of mountains and waters, trees and rocks, rolling clouds and light fog would rise. With a distant look, in the dense atmosphere, everything is calm, quiet and harmoneous. As far as I am concerned, the artistic effects obtained are benefited from his appropriate expressions for mist and clouds. Browsing through the landscape paintings by dif-ferent artists in ancient and modern times, they would show some signs of stiff-ness in the expressions of mist and clouds, as if they are pa-per-cut or stenciled. In the works of Zhu Yanmo, however, the mist and clouds are integrated among the mountains and rocks, float-ing into the bushes and forests, transiting to the light fog and thick clouds, obtaining the artistic effect of the harmony between the illusory clouds and the real mountains. The traditional mist and clouds painting methods include the method to leave emptiness on the picture as the mist and clouds, the method to outline the contours of mist and clouds and the method to render the mist and clouds with the gradation of col-ors. On the basis of traditions, Mr. Zhu created the clouds painting with dotted strokes, with floating colors, and the clouds painting with penetrated colors, making a more vivid perfor-mance of mist and clouds. Standing in front of his works, the viewer would have the feelings of being wet with the mist and clouds. Beautiful works as them are not only beautiful on the appearance, but also penetrates the souls of people. With this uniqueness, they are renowned as the “the mist and clouds of Yanmo”. In my opinion, the works of Zhu Yanmo are the creative arts worthwhile for appreciation.


It’s thrilled and marvelous to have the opportunity to meet Mr. Zhu, to watch him painting freely on the paper, to watch his  brushes moving smoothly to complete an amazing work, but I couldn’t figure out the names of his painting techniques. He has no idea about the name of the brushstrokes either, and would call it “free strokes” if there must be a name. Then he explained that what known as the “free strokes” refers to the casual painting with free strokes and intuition and the combination of brushes, paintings and the surroundings. Hearing the word “intuition” “free” and “casual”, I am more convinced with my intuition. With the intuition, I like the breezy colors and the mist and clouds, as well as the natural development of mountains and trees. But how have these been realized and what can be known as the situation of freedom and casualness? With these questions, I watched many videos of artists and have learned about the styles of the ancient painters, but have never found such an artist that showed the free strokes to such a great extent, maybe because it is him under his condition. Therefore, in my opinion, Zhu Yanmo’s art works are a combination of free expressionism and exquisite skills.


Having watched much of his works, I have also learned some secrets in his painting process. A majority of his works are accomplished with one-time successive strokes in short time, but, of course, there would also be some failures,  at which time, he would make alternative paintings repeatedly. I have found him making 10 paintings simultaneously. Among the numerous paintings on the same theme, he would chose the most satisfying one and use the rest as practice paper for calligraphy, which I think is really a waste. I have thought that it would be easier to collect one of the repeated paintings, but I was told that these paintings would never be allowed to go out of the studio. I have no idea about the extent of one’s creativity, but I do find changes and continuous innovation in the atmosphere creation and expressional styles. Therefore, his works are also the unique artistic works which are the pursuits of perfection.   


Here I would like to quote Mr. Zhu as follows to get deeper understandings of his works. “The Chinese traditional Landscape Painting is the comprehensive reflection of the Chinese traditional culture. The root of Chinese Traditional Culture is the culture of “Dao-de”( virtue), in which the Dao can be understood as the Nature and the practices in accordance with nature are known as Virtue. Then, since the natural things are already there, what the painters draw it for? They  represent the echo between the soul and the nature. It can be said that on the superficial level, the Chinese brush painting is the type of painting that expresses the nature with the basic elements of ink. On the deeper level, it is the demonstration of Dao-de or virtue.  His remarks lead me to a deeper understanding of his thoughts of creativity. Mr. Zhu’s paintings are done without weirdness, yet with deep meanings and the natural emotions flow out of his brushstrokes, "embracing the philosophical realms of the Taoist teachings with demonstrations of the floating mist and clouds, and the realization of Zen with the misted ink". Therefore, in my opinion, the works of Zhu Yanmo are also the arts with noble styles and with far-reaching meanings. 


With no professional terminology to describe the works of Mr. Zhu though, I can deeply sense the powerful energy of  his personality in his paintings. I believe that many lovers of his art may share the same feelings with me. All of these  indicate the values of Zhu Yanmo’s art works. To analyze from the academic perspective, the pleasing picture, the unique style, the casual strokes, the noble spirit and the deep meanings are all valuable points. Looking from the perspective of economic values, the price of Mr. Zhu’s works has been on the increasing trend, which displays the mounting market recognition for the values of his works. Looking from the perspective of social significance, with the expansion of Mr. Zhu’s influence, the study on the “Mist and Clouds of Yanmo” has spread to the abroad and the Chinese tra-ditional culture is further well-accepted by the world, by then his painting values will still be incalculable. 


With shallow artistic knowledge though, I still believe that the art should be appreciated by the intuition in the first place. If there is any inappropriateness, the opinions of the professionals are welcome for correction.  




The art of Zhu Yanmo

Zhu Yanmo,  born in 1970 in Mt Lvliang, China, loves painting from his childhood. He has been the general editor of Forum on Traditional Chinese Painting since 2006.


In calligraphy, he follows the style of Li Shutong, a Buddhist calligraphy master;  in painting,  he combines the styles of master Zhang Daqian and master Fu Baoshi, and has formed his own style of landscape painting. His artistic inspirations are from the natural world and thoughts of sages of ancient China. His unique style has been called "Yanmo Cloud and Mist" for its distinctive expression of the natural sceneries of mist, haze, and cloud in painting.

This article was published on Monday 26 November, 2012.
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