Guan Liang went to Japan in 1917 to receive training in Western modern and contemporary art such as figure drawing, sketching from nature and oil painting. After returning to China, Guan believed that when Chinese artists study Western art, they should synthesize their culture into the latter. In Guan's creative journey, he never ceased to explore the way to extract cultural and aesthetic essence from the East and West, converting them into his own unique style. Guan insisted on his style of expression, to communicate one of the most important elements in Chinese painting, xie yi - using few rhythmic lines to capture the spirit of an object instead of careful delineation, to move the viewers and establish resonance.
Guan was intrigued by the bold use of colour and the pursuit in capturing transient light in Impressionists paintings. He reflected upon his work and pondered how to "capture the coloured light, and highlight the sense of motion, not the stillness, of objects depicted, the impressionistic moment of a glimpse in the transient nature." i (The Memoir of Guan Liang, Shanghai Shuhua Publications, 1984,) In Guangzhou Dockyard (Lot 1088), his painting is skillfully clean and simple, yet is visually captivating. Guan subtly applies white to delineate the silhouette of clouds, the ship, the sea and the ground to illustrate the coloured light from the reflections and successfully captures shifting changes of light. The artist's use of colour is brilliant and smooth. He adopts ping tu - the even, flat colouring style of Chinese paintings and minimized the number of minute details often seen in Western paintings, hence providing a sense of emotions through pure colours. Adopting the use of fine brushstrokes, the artist endeavors to express the elegant use of lines in Chinese paintings, by applying "delineated flat colouring in order to discover art in flat surfaces". The lines on the ship, machinery and the crane are bold but refined, audacious but subtle. It gives a sense of graceful quality to the painting. The painting is thought to be completed between the beginning of the Open Door Policy and 1966, when China was developing steadily and vigorously, thus providing the perfect environment for artistic creations. Guan uses bright colours with precise brushstrokes, and the subtle aesthetic imagery of Chinese paintings to reflect the vitality of a new era in China.