Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art

Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art

Study under Moonlight
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    Nie Ou (Chinese, b. 1948)
    Study under Moonlight
    , 1989
    handscroll, ink and color on paper
    Gift of Red Rock Studio, Hong Kong, A Williams Alumnus
    Photo by Jim Gipe-Pivot Media and Stephen Petegorsky

    Nie Ou (b. 1948, Shenyang) encountered Western art at an early age but initially avoided traditional Chinese art. She attended the Beijing Youth Palace, a preparatory school that incorporated Western art into the curriculum. In 1969, she was sent to a small farm in Datong as part of the Cultural Revolution agenda of re-educating urban youth. Based on her experiences in Datong, peasant life became a prominent subject in her work. Only after her return to Beijing did Nie express interest in learning Chinese painting techniques. Nie uses an abstract style to merge contemporary peasant figures with traditional ink techniques and landscape elements.

    Nie wrote a famous poem by Wang Wei (701–761) on this handscroll. Translation of the calligraphy, right to left:

    Empty mountains after a recent rain:

    The air, since evening, turns autumnal.

    The bright moon, amid the pines, shines.

    The clear stream, over rocks, flows.

    Bamboos rustle: washerwomen return.

    Lotuses move: fishing boats come downstream.

    As it wishes spring’s fragrance may cease:

    This prince naturally can stay.

    “Dwelling in the Mountains: An Autumn Evening” by Wang Wei in the Tang dynasty.

    Nie Ou inscribed and painted Study under Moonlight.