"In modern art-making, the artist uses forms found in nature as inspiration. He then goes through a thinking process involving making choices and changes according to his own subjective viewpoint." – Chen Wen Hsi, The Creation of Modern Art
In Chen Wen Hsi’s memory, childhood is always closely tied to the fun and joy in the nature, as he once recalled that “my carefree childhood and the pure village life enabled me the leisure time and great energy to explore and to pursue many interesting things and the revelation of beauty either in human beings or the nature, in which my passion for painting had long seeded and matured”. His years of observation of animals also laid a solid foundation for his later career – Chen Wen Hsi’s animals are full of vigour and vivid life.
Born in 1906 in Guangzhou City, learning after Pan Tianshou, Chen Wen Hsi integrated his teachings from the Shanghai School with Lingnan School to develop an individual style, hence becoming one of the key founders of the Nanyang art style. He also drew from the character of Western oil painting through works such as those by Picasso or Matisse, whose influence can be found in the cubist forms and bright colours in his works. In Ducks, Chen Wen Hsi highlights the character of his subjects with a direct use of colour without the use of outlines, and achieves in creating an immediacy of perspective within a closely organized composition. The scene can be perceived from either an eye-level or an overhead view, breaking the stereotype of an expansive landscape as found in classical Chinese paintings. Rather than leaving the blank space of the paper to denote the water surface as is done in traditional Chinese painting, Chen evokes with turquoise blue and concise brushwork a unique vitality to the whole picture. A great admirer of Zhu Da (Bada Shanren), Chen Wen Hsi sought to express the spirit rather than the actual appearance of his subject, as is exemplified in Ducks. Arranged in different poses and moving in different directions, the ducks are depicted with the purposeful and energetic brush of the artist to achieve an ultimately modern approach to representation in Chinese painting.