Chen Yiching is a contemporary painter born un Taïwan in 1975. She produces floral artworks which delicateness equals the precision required by the Nihonga, a Japanese traditional pictorial technique used for their composition. Each of her artworks is an implementation of this centenary traditional technique the artist is passionate of, and these paintings contribute to the remanence of the Nihonga technique in the contemporary art landscape.
An artist guided by her sensibility
Chen Yiching has a well-rounded education. She first joined the Institute of Fine Arts at the Kyoto Municipal University of Arts to study Japanese painting. There, she studied alongside the great and important Japanese Nitten master Takao Yamazaki, a dedicated Japanese Fine Arts and exhibit organization. During her studies, Chen Yiching discovered the Nihonga technique whilst visiting an exhibition. She describes this decisive moment in her artistic life as an aesthetic shock: the ‘positive energy’ given off by the painting’s minerals created a deep marked feeling. Prepared with her traditional education, she moved to Paris in 2007 to develop an experimental approach at the heart of Impressionism’s global cradle, an artistic movement close to her heart.
For Chen Yiching, pictorial creation is a matter of sensitivity. She needs calm and concentration during the creative process to capture a ‘moment of nature’. Aware of life’s transience, Chen Yiching has to feel and understand the motif behind it prior to painting, in order to catch nature’s cycle.
The aesthetic language of Nihonga
Nihonga literally means: ‘Japanese’ (nihon), ‘painting’ (ga). It keeps a close poetic relationship with the elements of nature, not only with subjects, but also with the materials used in its technical creation. Although traditional, this technique offers creative possibilities that can be constantly added to, especially with the use of colour. Indeed, this highly meticulous technique firstly requires the creation of the pigment (enogu) from crushed minerals and plants which once mixed with glue (nikawa) and water creates the paint, the raw material of Nihonga. Traditionally applied in several successive layers on mounted paper, this raw material, sometimes augmented by metal leaf, produces an impression of surprising transparency typical of Chen Yiching’s works such as ‘Hanami’, a true masterpiece.
Though very rarely seen in Europe and the United States, this traditional technique possesses the finesse and subtlety associated with Japanese art. Significant ability and know-how is required at each stage; deeply committed to its recognition outside of Japan, in 2012, Chen Yiching wrote and published the first French book on the subject, which has since become a main reference on the matter in Europe. Thanks to her expertise, she also teaches at the highly prestigious and well respected French Asian Arts public museum: The Guimet Museum, in Paris.
Keeping Nihonga tradition in contemporary art
Her traditional teachings by the great Nihonga masters, as well as her long experience of the technique makes her one of the world experts. For twenty years, Chen Yiching's paintings have been admired in Asia, and particularly in Japan where she exhibits frequently. In 2003, she was awarded the Shouhaku Museum’s Grand Prize by its president, Master Atsushi Uemura, to whom she would become a student. This award is in addition to a series of eleven prizes and medals awarded to her by Japanese and French institutions.
Exhibited several times in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tokyo or Kyoto, as well as in Europe, Chen Yiching's work helps keep Nihonga on the international artistic stage and to carry on this century-old traditional art. The Nihonga is being included more and more into bodies of contemporary painting: artworks are joining the ranks of museum’s collections, such as the MET in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Although the practice has only a few European specialists, it is attracting a growing interest amongst collectors and lovers of contemporary Western art.