The 250 paintings showcased in the 2015 Shenzhen International Watercolour Biennial Exhibition attest to the vitality and range of the convention, transparent watercolor on paper, as well as to its reinvention: the addition of opaque paint, as well as acrylic on surfaces layered, encrusted, sometimes even abraded. The resulting innovation renders depth of field not only an illusion but a radiant actuality. Ranging in theme—from the contradictions of the rural tradition as it collides with the density of urban life—to the complexities of our (international) experience of confinement: the interior space of the home, the office, the city, the subway, the mind—this exhibition is a mirror of our time.
All the works display mastery of craft as well as invention. Some pictures address and pay homage to the history of Chinese watercolor painting; manyoverturn our expectations of that tradition. Others are surprising in another way, as they reveal, with grace, wit, and sometimes, anguish, idiosyncratic perceptions and unsettling emotions. Many—from Asia as well as from Europe, Australia, America, etc.—yoke the Eastern and Western traditions—substituting Western for Asian motifs and vice versa, as the artists play (in the absolute best sense of that word) with the great gifts of the past. So consummately well executed was the work submitted that my fellow jurors and I had to make agonizing (and sometimes good-naturedly contentious) decisions. Every work in this exhibition is worthy of a prize.
What an extraordinary opportunity for artists who were invited to enter two works without paying a fee and then will have the honor of having work framed, installed, and viewed in a gorgeous venue in a gorgeous city. The call to bring artists from around the world together follows from Zhou Tianya’s far-reaching vision, unwavering commitment, and indefatigable effort. Thanks to him, his talented coworkers, and the support of Chinese officials, this exhibition is a triumph. It celebrates watercolor, of course—the legacy of past generations welcoming the next, and it gives credence to that most amorphous and vaporous emotion: hope.
Artists come together in a spirit of joy, generosity, and good will; the image transcends the differences and difficulties of culture and language. As the 2015 Shenzhen International Watercolour Biennial Exhibition reminds us, the finest works of art have always and will always enter our hearts, where they expand our understanding—whatever our daily lives are like, whatever language we speak, wherever we live.
Maureen Bloomfield,Juror,Editor in chief of The Artist’s Magazine