Artist refuses to gloss over roots

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 March, 2000, 12:00am

As one of the most famous female artists in China today, Ou Yang has been around long enough to see the art world evolve around her.

'There are three kinds of artists who live in China today,' says Ou Yang (pictured), whose exhibition, The Oriental Imagery, can be seen at the Schoeni Art Gallery until April 13. 'There are those who are dedicated and poor who refuse to give in to commercialisation; there are those who straddle their own beliefs and commercialism; and there are those who choose to ignore Chinese culture and just paint to sell.' Ou Yang says that through years of experimentation she has created a style of her own using the Western oil medium combined with Chinese calligraphy strokes.

'Chinese painting has a unique way of expressing an artist's feelings while the Western medium is good for imagery and abstracts,' she says.

'But between this is a gap that can't be filled. My aim is to use the oil medium to express and explore Chinese painting.' Born in Hubei province, Ou Yang received her formal training at Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, where she is now a professor.

Active in Chinese art society, Ou Yang has won numerous awards on the mainland and abroad. In her earlier years, she was much in demand as a portrait artist, having painted Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong and other prominent political and academic figures in China.

Ou Yang has moved from figurative portraits to ones of abstract imagery - peppered with symbolism.

'Just like traditional Chinese painting with bamboo represents life and longevity, when I use nature and flowers to represent life and my experiences . . . I want to show that a lotus may blossom and die, but new ones grow back and there is always hope for the future.'