Fine Art Auction, Cai Jiangbai (蔡江白)
An In-Depth Look...
Cai Jiangbai (蔡江白) is an Asian modern and contemporary artist. Born in Shanghai in 1942, he is a member of the Chinese Artists Association, former Vice President of the Shanghai Watercolor Research Association, and a member of the Watercolor Working Committee of Shanghai Artists Association. He has also had the honor of a visiting professor position at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts. In his earliest years he studied under well-known artists Yu Yan Wenliang, Li Yongsen, and Ha Ting. (continued below)
In 1978 he began a long collaboration with the renowned Chinese classic oil painter, Chen Yifei, starting with the painting “Cold Frozen Land.” The painting went on to receive the highest award for oil paintings at the National American Exhibition and was added to the permanent collection at the China Art Gallery. He was later hired in 1989 as an exclusive painter at the Rodeo Gallery in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, and in 1990 he held a exhibition of individual watercolors at the Asian Pacific Museum in the United States. In 1996, he created a new glass method of watercolor painting, which the UK’s Prince Charles called "a great creation" after visiting the gallery, "…this new painting opens a new chapter in the history of world art." For his work with revolutionary glass watercolor techniques, Cai Jiangbai's earned a mention in the 1997 Guinness Book of Records for China's Great World.
Later collaboration at the end of his mentor and friend Yifei’s life and shortly after his passing led to his most famous works to date, “Eternal Youth”, which sold for 2.1 million USD in 2011 and “Wedding on the Execution Ground/As Long as the Doctrine is True,” the last two works of the three united paintings started decades prior with “Cold Frozen Land.” The three works featured legendary stories of revolutionary martyrs Zhou Wenyong and Chen Tiejun who were considered important to the founding of new China and told the story of their escort from the prison, their last moments alive, and final resting place after execution. When Yifei passed away suddenly, the last work, “Wedding” was nothing more than a sketch, but Cai Jiangbai in order to honor his longtime friend, felt that the oil painting deserved to be brought to life and using the traditional medium of his mentor created the internationally acclaimed piece ending a thirty-two-year painting journey with Chen Yifei.
Cai Jiangbai is famous for his creation of watercolors, and his art pursues the freehand spirit of modern Chinese painting. The subjects in the scenes of each piece are vivid, lifelike, and exquisite. The brushwork is precise and realistic, while the natural scenery in the background is powerful and vast. Each painting shows a well-thought execution of the idea of “Qi.” Qi in Chinese painting is part of the broader idea of Qi-Yun Sheng-Dong (气韵生动) an idea where traditionally, the painter should not represent so much the physical of the world they paint, but rather it was the artist’s responsibility to communicate the “living energy,” the “Qi” of what was being painted. In other words, there must be a harmonious Qi-Energy resonance between the painter, the act of painting, and what is painted – that is what grants life to the painting and brings the observer into a single unified experience with the work. His ability to master this technique has led to expressive watercolors offering a rich and boundless charm. To Cai Jiang, the white paper is a blue sky, ready to be filled with the light of the clouds, the bronze of the sun, and other colors as they fall down onto the paper, “my pen moves across the heart of the scene, it moves or stops as needed, it can be swift or slow and sick.” With the combined use of splashing, dusting, streaking, and other watercolor painting methods, the work becomes even more unexpected, resulting in a captivating piece full of natural and wild beauty. In his paintings, you will find the misty air of lakes and swamps, the beauty of mountains and city streets, Tibetan girls with bright eyes, serene slices of city life, and the innate charm of pristine forests and grasslands. Frequently, such as in his “The Song of Ancient Civilization” series, Cai Jiang makes use of a dry and wet pen technique, overlayed with an assortment of watercolors which creates a stunning portrayal of realistic water scenes and detailed woodwork. His works are rich in texture and clearly themed, where the beauty becomes infinite and indescribable.
His other notable works include watercolor paintings of figures on glass using techniques he pioneered in the mid-to-late 1990s, where clouds rise, and suns set low along the panes of the glass. The method often created a blurred, elegant, and tranquil visual effect and were noted for having an unforeseen romantic charm and unrestrained freedom even when the subjects delt with heavy themes of death and war. Most his work has been described “sentimental in grace, melancholy in the bright and beautiful, rich in harmony, and tragic and bitter in the freedom and ease surrounding the peace of the works.” Cai Jiangbai’s work has been collected and featured throughout public and private collections all over the world and offers a refreshing journey for the observer’s soul and the experience of the artist’s broad and far-reaching vision of life and the world we live in.
This exquisite lot features ten previously unseen works by Cai Jiangbai and include more of his interpretive landscape, urban, and rural oriented paintings, whereas other works of his have typically focused on human subjects. Each piece tells a rich and unique story, permitting a rare glimpse into the everyday serenity of life in China through the eyes of a master watercolorist. Cai Jiangbai’s museum and gallery quality work is limited in numbers and a perfect adornment for any sized collection of fine art and traditional Chinese aesthetics.
“Eternal Youth”, which sold for 2.1 million USD in 2011. A Cai Jiang Bai and Chen Yifei collaboration.