Beijing’s prestigious China National Academy of Painting is currently playing host to an extraordinary exhibition that showcases the masterpieces of the renowned Chinese color master, Pan Yikui. Pan stands out as a representative figure of the second generation of Chinese artists who ventured to Russia for their artistic education after China embarked on its reform and opening-up journey.
Between 2008 and 2013, Pan honed his skills under the mentorship of the eminent Russian artist Valery Lednev. Those familiar with art history would note that Pan’s works distinctly mirror the influences of the Peredvizhniki movement—a progressive art movement in Russia—and the techniques of impressionist plein-air painting, which emphasizes painting outdoors to capture the spirit and essence of a moment.
Beyond these influences, Pan’s mastery lies in his unparalleled ability to craft artistic conflict. He does this expertly through various elements, from color and composition to rhythm. This ability manifests beautifully in his myriad of portraits and ethnic-themed artworks, where each stroke seems instinctive, and each portrayal feels real. His creations overflow with an infectious blend of romance, passion, and poetry, encapsulating viewers in the emotions and stories they convey.
For those who admire landscapes, Pan’s sketches offer a visual treat. Most of them draw inspiration from locales in Russia and western parts of China. In these pieces, Pan’s expertise in managing composition is evident. He has an uncanny ability to seize the fleeting interplay of light and color, rendering them on the canvas with breathtaking precision. What’s particularly noteworthy is how he merges Russian oil painting techniques with the fluidity and grace of China’s traditional freehand brushwork. This fusion not only defines his style but also represents the harmonious blend of two rich artistic cultures.
Shang Hui, who leads the Theory Committee of the Chinese Artists Association and the China Oil Painting Society, offers an insightful observation about Pan’s works. He notes, “Pan’s command over the traditional impressionist’s use of light and color, coupled with realistic reproduction skills, is truly commendable. But what sets him apart is how his expressions are deeply rooted in his grasp of Chinese culture, and his insights into Chinese calligraphy and painting.”
Adding to this narrative, Ding Yilin, a distinguished professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, shared his thoughts via a video message. He highlighted Pan’s unwavering commitment to realism and his belief in life being the ultimate muse for artistic creation. Professor Yilin further remarked on Pan’s deep love for his homeland, which is evident in his consistent depiction of China’s northwestern customs. This passion translates into artworks that breathe life into real scenes, taking viewers on a visual journey through China’s landscapes and traditions.
Those in Beijing or planning to visit are encouraged to immerse themselves in this unique exhibition. It promises to be an enlightening experience, offering glimpses of Pan Yikui’s extraordinary talent. The exhibition awaits art enthusiasts until October 1.