Spring in Jinling
Works of Fifteen Contemporary Nanjing Painters

Preface by Howard Rogers

"Spring in Jinling" is the sixteenth exhibition of contemporary Chinese ink painting to be mounted at Kaikodo in New York and the second done in pleasant collaboration with K.Y. Ng of Hong Kong . In contrast to "The Flowering Field" of 1997, which included works by 58 artists living in various cities throughout Asia , Europe , and North America , the present exhibition is geographically more focused, with the fifteen artists all active in the city of Nanjing . This grouping is thus based on the assumption that geography and the artistic traditions associated with particular locales are of some significance to the creators of the paintings presented in the current show even if the exact nature of the relationship is difficult to define.

In viniculture and increasingly in culinary studies much attention is focused on the physical environment in which the raw products were grown-the combination of geology, climate, and weather the French call terroir. The physical parameters of the terroir of Chinese ink painting are provided by the media in common use: traditional brush and ink on paper or silk, regardless of technique or subject-matter. And just as the wines of Burgundy cannot be produced in the Alsace region of France , so too do the effects of ink painting differ in basic nature from those of oil pigments applied with a flat-tipped brush. The terroir of painting in Jinling is expressed in even more visible form in several paintings in the exhibition, especially in the works of Zhu Daoping and Shi Banghe, the titles of which evoke the historical changes in the city's nomenclature from Jinling ("Golden Hills") to Qinhuai (River) to Nanjing ("Southern Capital").

Climate can be defined culturally as well as meteorologically, and the cultural climate of Nanjing is rich indeed, especially from the 3rd through the 10th .century when the city was capital to a succession of dynasties in which the arts of calligraphy and painting in particular flourished to unprecedented heights. Wang Xizhi (321-379), preeminent among all calligraphers, and Gu Kaizhi (3447-4067), the first famous painter, worked in the city as did Dong Yuan of the 10th century, founder of the most influential lineage of landscape painting. While the present group of artists cannot be held on the basis of their paintings exhibited here to have been directly influenced by that aesthetic heritage, the richness of that legacy is evidenced in the astounding technical and expressive range of the paintings and is suggested as well in the academic interests of the artists-Xiao Ping's study of the 17th-century' Nanjing master Gong Xian, for example.

While soil and landscape are virtually immutable on a human time scale, and we are not capable of experiencing climatic changes, we are all aware of the weather and take note of such changes on a daily basis. This is comparable for painting to changes in fashion, brought about by contacts with painters from other areas, both within and without China itself. Huang Rouchang's paintings of women, or Zhu Xinjian's nudes, for example, are fully comprehensible only within a context much larger than Nanjing alone. The concept of terroir in reference to contemporary Chinese painting is thus suggestive rather than definitive, in large part because of the nature of society today, which for better or worse is far more internationalized than ever before and more susceptible to the winds of fashion and the storms of change.

Credit for this exhibition rests almost entirely with K.Y. Ng and his assistant Alex Chiu, who spent considerable time in Nanjing making the selection of paintings in consultation with the artists themselves. They are also primarily responsible for the catalogue, working closely with Louisa Ching of Orientations. We are all grateful to the eminent scholar Lang Shaojun for his illuminating essay. In New York Carol Conover provided valuable logistic support, Xu Shiping framed many of the paintings, while Arnold Chang contributed in important ways to the English portion of the catalogue and conceived the English title of the exhibition, one that suggests the flourishing state of painting in Nanjing today. The exhibition "Spring in Jinling" is intended to stand as visual testimony to the robust health and continuing vitality of an artistic tradition now more than two millennia in age.


Howard Rogers Onomea Bay February, 2004

Preface by Lang Shaojun
Foreword by K.Y. Ng
Preface by Howard Rogers
Online Catalogue