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Art Works of the Hermit Prince

The new exhibition at the Hwa Kang Museum celebrates the 120th birthday of Aixinjueluo Puru.

After the fall of the Qing Dynasty culminating in the 1911 revolution, Aixinjueluo Puru (1896 – 1963) of the imperial Manchu family, changed his name to Pu, Xinyu. He was born in the Year of the Fire Monkey (1896), and 2016 would have been his 120th birthday. Once a scholar at the Humboldt University of Berlin / Germany, he lived a secluded life in the Je Tai Monastery in the Western Mountains of Beijing after his return, where he got his nickname: "Hermit of West Mountain".

"The ancients painted apes but not monkeys: monkeys are impatient, apes are quiet." In the "Playing Ape" painting, the white ape is depicted with light ink strokes, not contour-outlined. This reflects "’Gestalt’ expression through simple strokes" ("History of Famous Paintings"), conveying the visual perceptions as under the Gestalt Principles in contemporary Western art (Arnheim: “Visual Thinking”).

In his "Guanyin Figure", Pu Xinyu applies different script styles of Chinese calligraphy with and without variation of line thickness. A combination of softness and dynamic, movement and stillness, backlight and facial contours evolves, expressing the eternal principle of Dharma and the solemn and quiet, dignified image of the Goddess of Mercy. The scene differs greatly from the focus perspective approach in Western painting, and illustrates the concept of "absence (emptiness) of inherent existence" in Chinese culture.

The concepts of Ying and Yang form the basis of Chinese thought and culture. Different from Western painting, “the Chinese did not have the concept of ‘light and shade’, but traditional Chinese painting incorporated ‘blank’ spaces to suggest ‘light’” (Bruhl, “Primitive Thinking"). Though light effects are not emphasized in traditional Chinese painting, the "halo" in the painting "Guanyin", adds unique and brilliant visual effects, like the big round 'Mirror' emitting brilliant lights, becoming the focus of the painting.

Traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting, with subtle expression through simple strokes, variation of line thickness, absence of inherent existence, Yin and Yang (and more), does not only include common aspects of Western art concepts, but applies them in a Chinese perspective for depicting the visual world and the unknown.

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