Changing museum will honor ink-painting master
CHENG Shifa, an ink-painting master, left a legacy to the world with his traditional brush portraits of the countryside and village folk.
Now an art museum will be built in Gubei in Changning District to be named after and exhibit the artworks of Cheng.
The calligrapher, painter and cartoonist, who was born in 1921, died 10 years ago.
Cheng is a key name in the art style of the "Shanghai School" and he is regarded by many as a principal figure in China's modern art history. In 2005, in recognition of his outstanding achievement and contribution to Chinese art, Cheng was honored as "People's Artist" by the State Ministry of Culture.
Construction of the museum started this month and it is scheduled to be opened to the public at the end of 2019.
Occupying an area of 7,120 square meters, the three-story building will be built to the standards of an international art museum.
According to Shi Dawei, the president at Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy, "the museum will be an art venue in harmony with its surroundings, infused with quality exhibitions and comfortable environment."
Cheng Shifa was a former president of Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy set up in 1960. In his late years, Cheng donated to the nation nearly 122 precious ink-wash paintings and calligraphy he had collected from different dynasties.
"That's the charm of his character, a patriotic person and a passionate artist," Shi said.
With an exhibition space of 4,000 square meters, Cheng Shifa Art Museum will be a part of the Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy. There will be three permanent exhibition halls that fully display Cheng's art biography, achievements, art concepts and the masterpieces he donated.
"There will also be some temporary exhibitions including the paintings created by Feng Zikai, He Tianjian, Lin Fengmian and Xie Zhiliu, the big names of the first generation of the artists at Shanghai Chinese Painting Academy," Shi said. "This art museum will be an important place to study Cheng's art and the status of the Shanghai School in modern art history."
Born in Songjiang, Cheng grew up on a farm. He spent his boyhood observing birds, flowers and farmers — themes that were later to dominate his canvases. He initially studied medicine but later switched to art, the first love of his life. He graduated from Shanghai Art College in 1941 and held his first exhibition a year later.
"I treasure very much that I can express myself with lines and colors," Cheng once said.
I'm no better than others, but I'm different. Actually, everyone is different. Each person has different experiences, feelings and dispositions, which form unique styles that can't be duplicated."
In his earlier years, Cheng mainly focused on landscapes. He then moved on to draw comic strips, establishing his own distinctive style. His representative works include "The True Story of Ah Q" and "The Story of Brave Sword." His figure paintings in his late years are also considered significant works of art.
He initially gained notice by illustrating the short stories of renowned Chinese author Lu Xun (1881-1936).
For the years when China was closed to the outside world, Cheng's works were of a political nature. But when the nation's doors were flung open, he turned to subjects closer to his spirit — birds, trees and mountains.
Today he ultimately is remembered best for his paintings of minority ethnic groups in the southwestern province of Yunnan.
Cheng's work was strongly influenced by the painting of Ren Bonian (1840-1896) and Chen Hongshou (1599-1652).
His techniques combine the traditional with his own personal style. Vivid and colorful with simple lines and neat brush strokes, Cheng's paintings often display a childlike innocence and gentleness.
Traditional Chinese painting, he once said, "shouldn't be constricted by the past. Our artists should have a much deeper insight into life and society. Sometimes breaking the bond of tradition is a good thing."
Cheng, also an expert in calligraphy, was particularly influenced by renowned calligrapher Lu Ji, born in 265 AD, who painted in Shanghai when it was still a small fishing village.
Cheng's calligraphy has earned many awards and he has exhibited across the country and overseas.
"His works, which incorporate history, literature and painting, are simple yet elegant, popular among most people, young or old," commented Lin Mingjie, a local art critic and a long-time friend of Cheng.
Lin recalled that his humor and friendliness won him many friends in various walks of life.
"He was a very humorous and interesting person. He loved Kunqu Opera. He even set up the Duo Duo Opera Group at home, and had all his friends who love the opera gather and sing there," Lin added, "He was always optimistic no matter what happened."
In the eyes of Shi Dawei, the importance of Cheng Shifa Art Museum is not merely limited to the name of Cheng Shifa.
"We will cooperate with academies outside Shanghai to view him and the art of the Shanghai School from a different angle in a broader scope," said Shi.
A library is more than just a stack of books
AS the construction work on the east branch of Shanghai Library in Pudong New Area gets underway, people are counting down the 1,005 days to see a new landmark in the city.
Looking at the artist's renditions, you can imagine how enjoyable it will be to sit and read in the spacious building and see unobstructed panoramic views of the sky and Century Park through its facade of clear, insulated and fritted glass.
Its charm is not just the landscape, but more importantly its service. The library authorities say the new branch will not be merely a place for storing and reading books, but a place where people will gather and socialize.
Unlike Shanghai Library, which opens only about 20 percent of its area to the public, all the seven floors on the ground of the new branch will be accessible to readers with about 4.8 million books on shelves in the open areas and in digital versions. Reading lovers will definitely be impressed as there will be individual reading seats and special areas for reading clubs.
Besides traditional desks and chairs, there are also various types of sofas so that visitors can sit as leisurely as they do at home. Special areas and meeting rooms will also be set up for discussions, meetings or other interactive activities.
Chen Chao, the curator of Shanghai Library, said it will be "a study, a living room and a studio" for every citizen.
It will be inclusive enough to serve all kinds of readers, including children, the disabled and elderly. Parents need no longer hesitate to bring children to library in fear that they might interrupt adult readers. Instead, all members of a family could find a place there to stay whole day long.
There will be a special area for children on the first floor with books for different age groups, including picture books for preschool kids, and parent-child activities will also be organized.
Innovators will also find it an ideal place where they can seek knowledge from books and use advanced facilities.
Knowledge and culture no longer remain on the paper of the books. They come in various forms, such as films, performance, lectures and in-person experiencing activities such as painting and singing.
Special designs will make it convenient for disabled and elderly people. For example, there will be computers with special software for visually impaired readers to hear digital books. Books will also be put on the upper levels of the shelves so that senior people don't have to bend down.
The design puts to rest the dispute about whether it's necessary to build such a large physical library in the digital era.
Cultivating reading habits
It is exactly what Shanghai needs in its efforts to build itself into an international cultural metropolis.
It would be ironic if a city called itself a cultural metropolis while its citizens do not read. Reading is important for knowledge and cultural inheritance and modern libraries should not only provide enough books, but also cultivate reading habits among them and encourage them to love reading.
It's just like the question whether physical book stores are necessary. Actually, many book stores survive well with services meeting readers' demands, such as beautiful decorations, comfortable environments and interesting activities.
With economic development, Chinese people's cultural consumption has upgraded from quiet reading alone. Actually, for many people, reading is not only a way of study, but also a way of life. Their needs are also diverse — they want an aesthetic setting, convenient service and a cool environment.
The east branch of Shanghai Library has taken the first step to meet such demands with its design, which will attract people to walk right in. The library must ensure it provides enough activities for people to enjoy their stay and then love it as a comprehensive cultural space, not just stacks of books.
The Milky Way — shown in all its glory
You don't have to be an astronomy fanatic to enjoy a newly launched exhibition at Shanghai Natural History Museum.
The exhibition, Starry Sky Illumination, provides every visitor with a stellar experience. It opened yesterday and runs until November 26. Admission to the exhibition is free.
A sky projector that can recreate positions of more than 22 million stars is one of the highlights of the exhibition.
Thanks to the projector's advanced technology, some stars normally too dim or too small to be observed can be viewed.
A seven-minute video made by star photographers will show how the stars move throughout the night with the Earth's rotation.
The exhibits also include over 110 landscape and celestial photos made by photographers from more than 20 countries and regions.
The museum has prepared two workshops for teenage visitors, where they can make a simple telescope with paper, or create the solar system using plasticine.
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