The figures in Lei Zirens paintings seem like live segments broken away from the concrete time, space and situation but integrated again on the drawing paper. The concept of time and story appear no longer important; like the tradition of Chinese painting, what hes trying to present is the tranquil and placid inner world. However, in effect, most of his figures are from specific circumstances in our daily life. He just picks out certain sights that are more tranquil and breaks the specific composition, then combines them in his ideal way. Therefore, the figures in his paintings are usually immersed in a romantic atmosphere. Obviously, there has occurred a subtle but qualitative change from the selected materials to the final expression of the painting, since the beginning of this producing progress.
If entirely judged by the classification criteria of ancient Chinese brush drawing, Leis style of drawing language belongs to a combination of fine and freehand brushwork, which means that in his paintings concurrently exist fine and freehand characteristics. The fine characteristics are reflected in two aspects. First, about the character depiction, you can find his emphasis on a trick of using lines, which is not like one stretch but an imprint by the slow movement of fine lines. Second, Lei uses a lot of skills like brush-shading and his fine-lined-shading, which he intentionally tries to control, clearly expresses the features of fine line drawing. On the contrary, the background of the painting is drawn in the freehand style. All mountains, waters and trees in his work are out of his arbitrary will.
Namely, the fine-and-freehand combined drawing language is the third one after fine brushwork and freehand drawing. From the perspective of the history of ancient Chinese painting, the third language does not stress neither fine nor freehand drawing, which instead emphasizes both freehand and fine style. It is a harmonious unity between the two inherently conflict languages on the paper. Lei is not the first one; since the Ming Dynasty, there has emerged many artists adopting this style, such as Dai Jin, Wu Wei and Qi Baishi. However, in Leis paintings, what we see is not an entirely harmonious scene; in other word, the seeming harmony is only a presentation. The authentic figures and invented background in his work create a fantastic atmosphere. Most of the time, the figures tranquility provides a contrast to the vigorously changing scenery which in turn resists those tranquil characters. In his drawings, there are mountains, waters, trees and clouds, which actually encircle the characters when creating the atmosphere. Even in his work whose background is the sky, we could only feel deserted nihility. Leis paintings do not express harmony; contrariwise, the confrontational tension between his figure depiction and background rendering, gives out with an underlying insecurity and inquietude.
Considering the development of Chinese painting, the combination of fine brushwork and freehand style is definitely a golden mean. Since it is so, we naturally have such a question: Why Lei has chosen such a neutralizing language, by describing those meticulously selected dynamic figures and harmonious sights, to convey a latent anxiety. He is like a sincere but silly liar, who tries his best to create a tranquil space, yet unwittingly leaks certain clamour of our world. Of course, we can regard Lei as one artist who paint dreams, just as many persons do. If he is an artist whos immersed in the world of ancient scholars, he is definitely not a pure and thorough one. He has once said, I suddenly realize there are so much blankness, so pale, as well as those facts without any vitality. Thats why I always want to find one leaf of green, and a bright sky however, what usually comes to me is a sense of loss after searching. Strictly speaking, Leis sense of loss is not an absolute private feeling; behind it underlies the loss of his brush drawing languages social base.
For the painter, his life experience is tangled with his experience of art language. The nature of his life experience determines his choice about the drawing language of art. And long-term endeavor to one art language would often reshape the life experience. This intertwined development depends on the nature of language. Choosing one language usually means the choice of one life style. Therefore, Leis loss has its source in adopting the ancient art language, which now and again collides with the social reality. Chinese brush drawing - this language
- primarily tries to convey the painters world, namely his inner integrating ability towards the outside reality, instead of his taste or his immediate response to reality. However, the world we are living undergoes a comprehensive transformation to modern society; in this day and age, the whole society surges forward with the benefit principle playing a dominant role. Guided by this principle, on one hand, the society achieves rapid development; on the other hand, it develops so rapid that the individual feel uncomfortable, along with instrumental rationalitys crushing force against the individual faith. The real world in this case requires art to be direct and releasing emotional expression, as if this is the only way for art to keep up with the pace of social development. It is obvious that the social base of Brush painting has been crushed by social transformation, only leaving an empty shell, the drawing language. From this perspective, Lei Zirens endeavour to brush drawing language seems so ill-timed.
We can clearly feel that, in Leis paintings, the real conflict isnt between two independent drawing languages, but between his living faith catalysed by art language and his real experience brought by social reality. As a painter with profound understanding of brush drawing language, Lei tries to integrate the fragments of personal experience shattered by reality, in his own way, just like his favourite masters. However, the social developing reality prevents him from escaping the emotions domination. His use of drawing language and his selection of source material both demonstrate his strong effort to control the paintings emotional expression; at the same time, he could not completely restrain the outpouring of emotion. From this point of view, it is better for us to regard him as one painter indulging in both dream and reality than one who just paints dreams. Compared with many painters with similar drawing style, Lei is overwhelmed neither by complete illusory dreams, nor by cheap emotional expression. The true value of his work lies in this conflict between disposition and emotion.