Shedding the Influence of Communism in the Fine Arts
(Minghui.org) In the area of fine art, if all Falun Dafa practitioner artists could improve and perfect themselves based on the principles of Falun Dafa, I think the arts profession would gradually get back on track.
Aside from aesthetics, this also involves addressing other aspects, such as the influence of communism on artists in China and other communist or post-communist countries.
Style of Fine Arts
With a foundation of solid education, fine arts students or artists in China can produce artworks that are relatively realistic, which are often considered accurate. But this is not necessarily true.
We have found many artists inside China, including Dafa practitioners, who tend to ignore the influence of communism in the style and techniques of their artworks.
Such problems can be easily identified in the profession of art outside China. I know some critics or art professionals in Western society can tell if a painting, gouache, or sketch comes from a Chinese artist, even without the artist's name or source of the artwork.
As a result, they often refer it as “mainland Chinese taste.” This style, which originated in the Soviet Union, is not well accepted in the Western art world.
When appreciating traditional Western painting, a critical aspect is to understand its cultural background and historical heritage.
For example, if a portrait is of the Venetian style, people can feel its passion and glory; if it is from the later Northern Renaissance, one can sense the influence of the Protestant Reformation.
When the same portrait is from China or other communist countries, one can sense the influence of communism and its suppression of citizens.
During a nationwide campaign by Soviet communism in the 1930s, a large number of artists were exiled or imprisoned because their artworks did not conform to Socialist Realism. Some artists who did not adapt to the new policy were even executed as part of Stalin’s Great Purges.
Influence of Communism
For someone who knows traditional painting well, he or she can see the lineage of an artist with just a glimpse of their work. For example, the Dutch School or Spanish style is readily apparent in such masterworks.
The essence of the artwork is defined by the technique and characteristics of that style. That is, without certain methods of that school, such as composition, light, color, material, and technique, even a realistic painting is unable to reflect that special taste.
Therefore, although traditional painting emphasizes accuracy, a realistic artwork does not necessarily mean it is traditional. For example, even if someone can draw a person or a tree very vividly, that may not be a traditional artwork.
For someone from a communist country, they may consider the style of Socialist Realism as authentic art.
Many people who learn painting focus their passion and efforts on improving their skills, and may not be interested in such theories. An art teacher in modern China, on the other hand, would not tell his students that what he or she teaches is a communist style.
But in Western art history, Socialist Realism is a term to describe this style—a literature and art style set during the Soviet Union era that assists in brainwashing a populace with communist ideology. Inherited by Chinese communism, Socialist Realism is manifested throughout theory and practice, from a beginner who first picks up a pencil to learn sketching all to way to a professional artist.
This is what has been taught in Chinese art schools after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power.
Among the so-called artists promoted by Soviet communism, some artists produced artworks that were quite realistic. For example, the brushstroke and color style from several of Stalin’s favorite artists are often seen in today’s figurative artists in China.
Unfortunately, the artwork of some Falun Dafa practitioners also have traces of such brushstrokes and color styles. But it is also understandable—after all, most of them in the fine art profession learned this in China under the influence of communism.
Clearly, it is noble that these practitioners want to validate Dafa with their artistic skills. If we can completely remove the influence of the communist specter while creating artwork, the outcome will be even better.
Certain popular fine art trends in China are actually derived from communism. A few examples of this are, preferring square over round, preferring messiness over emptiness, dividing space into blocks with flat faces, displaying the brushstroke, an overall gray tone, and structural drawing.
These are derivatives of communism’s influence on art and they are degenerate.
Returning to Tradition
Someone may ask: how can we draw or paint without these techniques? Professionals would even think our artwork amateurish.
In fact, this is the viciousness of communism—it makes you feel that you are unable to live without it. But this kind of communism-related style is actually demonic.
There is no need to worry, though. To learn traditional art, we have to eliminate the influence of communism. This is, however, not to demolish our existing skills.
Rather, it is a process of returning to tradition. When comparing artworks from the European masters, we can see that the sharp lines used by Chinese art students to start a sketch are influenced by communism.
These contour lines and structure lines are disturbing, and they did not exist in classic artworks. Even holding a pencil should not be fixed in a way like a conductor holding the baton.
Some modern artists are studying figurative art. But in the name of “realism,” they focus on vulgar topics that destroy morality.
To highlight foulness, the stroke and color in their techniques are also designed that way. This is completely different from classic masters who, through smooth, clean, and invisible strokes, as well as color, depict divinity or saints.
By denying the divinity and traditional essence, communist-influenced art adopted changes and incorporated the communist style for political and brainwashing purposes. Moreover, divinity is no longer a topic in many works of art.
Most of the fine art skills in China were introduced from the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Several generations have passed and many assume that those are authentic skills.
An example is the block presentation of muscles, and the emphasis on facial muscle structure to show solid texture. Some people believe that came from the tradition of drawing from plaster casts of ancient sculptures.
In reality, the early stage of Western fine art teaching did not require students to sketch statues or plaster heads. It was not until the 18th century that students were taught to draw copies of unearthed statues from ancient Greece and Rome.
The purpose was to study the ancient style and to learn traditional art, instead of training in drawing basics. In many artworks from China, the muscular structure is often over emphasized and certain smooth passages were transformed to cubes or blocks.
Even for color, blocks of brushstrokes are clearly seen. These techniques come from the era in which propaganda materials highlighted communism, revolution, and a sense of power.
To return to tradition, we can study artworks produced during the Renaissance and 200 years after. After studying them again and again, we will gradually develop a sense of tradition.
We agree that an artwork should be an accurate and precise presentation, but that is different from realism, a school of art that started in the 1800s.
Classical art focuses on conceptual reality, which is related to the artist’s mind, insight and experience, and is not necessarily the same as real life. Art should go beyond everyday life and provide upright guidance.
We all know that if someone always looks at vulgar content, bad substances will enter his or her body. There will be no contamination if one only looks at things that have good content.
Master Li said,
“Because those things from the past were there for them to learn from and compare their works to, they matured very quickly. After the Renaissance, the emergence of Leonardo da Vinci and other artists was intended by Gods to have them lead human beings to reach artistic maturity and show people how to do their artwork. That's why their works at that time had a great impact on mankind.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art”)
Traditional Fine Art
More specifically, the use of color in traditional oil painting was based on observation and experience, and was achieved through optical effects of colored layers and glaze techniques.
When explaining transparent colors, Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “When a transparent color is laid upon another of a different nature, it produces a mixed color, different from either of the simple ones which compose it.”
Additionally, da Vinci wrote, “For those colors which you mean should appear beautiful, prepare a ground of pure white. This is meant only for transparent colors.”
When appreciating classic oil paintings composed with the technique of superimposing color layers, we often find the color so subtle and rich that it is beyond description. For example, for a figure’s skin in a classic artwork, the half shaded area may seem a little reddish or a little greenish.
It looks that way because it has both transparent green and red, along with other transparent colors, combining together into an optical effect that is subtle, rich, and beyond words.
Nowadays in some art schools, students are told not to mix the colors well on the palette so each stroke can carry uneven, varying color.
The intention is to mimic the rich color mentioned above, but this method is essentially a practice of the color separation theory from Impressionism. This approach not only causes color layer instability, but also yields an effect of fragmented color blocks, as seen in artworks from China or the Soviet Union.
In the classical artworks of Raphael, on the other hand, “the inner light” was produced from the lower tint layer with the optical effect of multilayer transparent glazing. This is drastically different from the opaque pigment color directly mixed on the palette.
After understanding the two painting modes of Chiaroscuro and Sfumato, Raphael applied Unione, an effective way to unify forms and colors together harmoniously.
On the topic of stroke, da Vinci wrote, “...take care that the shadows and lights be united, or lost in each other; without any hard strokes, or lines: as smoke loses itself in the air, so are your lights and shadows to pass from the one to the other, without any apparent separation.”
He also said that if artists were to apply heavy, coarse strokes for a head portrait, that would be fooling themselves. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a French Neoclassical painter, also taught that people should see only product on the canvas, not the methods employed such as brushstrokes.
On shapes, he also talked about avoiding square or angular contours, in order to create beautiful shapes. That is, it should be round and smooth, without details protruding from inside.
Such a concept of preferring round over square is consistent with traditional Chinese culture. Because of the divine connection, objects in this human world should follow the divine—which is, gentle, smooth, and harmonious.
Because everything, including human beings, is from the divine, only by following the divine connection can we achieve harmony of heaven and earth as well as return to the divine.
This article only briefly covered several topics. The accuracy we are describing here is different from the realism discussed by most people today. Overseas Falun Dafa practitioners working in fine art have also talked about this.
Art has two major components—form and connection. Form refers to design and expression methods of an artwork to deliver a message or idea.
The message could be divine, human-related, demonic, or unclear. These intrinsic contents work with other elements of the same kind, serving as a bridge to connect to the divine or to hell.
The connection works through form—including composition, pattern, theme, and other aspects—to reach the viewers. Therefore, a linkage exists from viewers to the artwork, then to the divine, human, or demonic.
This linkage continues to extend beyond this physical dimension. This is what an artwork carries.
An excellent, upright artwork is assimilated to the positive energy field, and it could be strengthened by the divine. Similarly, vulgar artwork can connect to the demonic.
Art creation is not only dependent upon superb skills, but it also directly reflects the artist’s mind and spirituality. For Falun Dafa practitioner artists, shedding the influence of the Party culture will help our artwork become purer, more compassionate, and beautiful, thus having a more positive and perfect effect on people.