Plum Blossom Ink Art may be painted in Brighton – a city that’s backed by the Sussex Downs, looks out to the English Channel and is filled with British eccentricity – but it has deep Chinese roots.
My name is Jing Wang. Friends just like to call me Jing.
I was born and grew up in Xingyi, not far from China’s south-western border with Vietnam.
One of my earliest memories is of watching my father at his calligraphy practice. When I told him that I loved the smell of the ink on the rice paper, and the way he moved his brush, he stopped writing, asked me to sit next to him and showed me how to hold the bamboo brush. This peaceful scene was my introduction to the ancient arts of China.
Life has taken me far from my heritage, before leading me back, full circle.
Out into the world
I went to university in Chongqing, and studied Japanese language and literature. My career, as an interpreter and then as a project manager in dual-cultural companies, led me to Hong Kong, Japan and eventually England. It was here that I met my partner and had our son.
But when he was just a year old, I was made redundant. At this same time, I was hit by ill health and needed three major operations, and lost my father. I felt lost, and questioned who I was. I had no confidence and no energy.
It was at this lowest ebb that I felt drawn back to my Chinese roots.
Voices from ancient China
I began reading about the ‘literati’ or ‘scholar-officials’ of ancient China – the intellectuals who mastered the four arts of calligraphy, brush painting, guqin (a plucked seven-stringed instrument) and the strategy game Qi.
Exploring their philosophical works, I felt the need to return to Chinese calligraphy myself.
Once these fine brush strokes have been mastered, Chinese brush painting is seen as the next step, and learning this beautiful art form gave me an outlet for my creativity.
Visits to the Chinese collections at the British Museum were endlessly stimulating. An exhibition on the Ming dynasty featured the amazing 8-meter-long scroll of Plum Blossoms and Moonlight by Chen Lu - I was mesmerised.
Founding Little Dragon Mandarin School allowed me to reconnect with my language of birth, and to share it with local children. I even learnt to play the guqin.
An unexpected mentor
During this period I travelled back to China regularly, each time seeking to learn from skilled artists. But in a twist of fate, it was a British artist who had the most profound effect on my work.
Jane Dwight was introduced to brush painting when she lived in the Philippines, and studied under Professor Chen Bin Sun, Cai Xiaoli and Qu Lei Lei. Her exquisite paintings are admired around the world, and her book is regarded as the Bible of Chinese painting.
When I met her in 2014, I discovered that she lived close to my home in Brighton. We began holding a ‘Yaji’, or elegant gathering, every month – she showed me how to improve my painting, and I helped with her calligraphy and her Mandarin.
After that, I did a year course with Mr. Fang Yan in Qianzhu Academy mainly focus on Song Yuan style including both landscape painting as well as flower and birds painting. I was focus on SongYuan Landscape and SongYuan Flower and Birds styles of painting. Both were intensive courses which I spent at least 5 hours per day in average, sometime almost 10 hours a day. From how to appreciate the famous paintings, different techniques based on how to represent the nature, express our feeling towards the nature...
Finding my own direction
I now have a painting ‘studio’ in a bright corner of our lounge, with all my materials to hand - Xuan paper, brushes, Chinese ink, stone seals and red ink paste.
At early stage of my paintings, I liked to paint in the ancient literati Xieyi free hand style, and was drawn to traditional bird-and-flower mainly plum blossoms and lotus themes. But from last year, I started to add Song and Yuan dynasties' styles which both have got fine line stroke Gongbi with boneless Mogu influenced by Song dynasty emperor Huizhong, Yuan dynasty artist Wang Mian, and modern young artist Mr Fang Yan. For my Xieyi style, my composition is modern, influenced primarily by 20th century and contemporary artists including Master Zhang Daqian and Lou Shibai and young artist Fang Zhi Bin.
Later, I did a whole year course and was trained by Mr. Fang Yan in Qianzhu Academy. The course was not only focusing on Song Yuan style including both landscape painting as well as flower and birds painting, but it also traceback back to Wei Jin 魏晉 dynasties' portrait brick art. It was in these three well structured courses I started to really learn how to appreciate and understand paintings by masters including Dong Yuan 董源, Li Chen 李成, Fan Kuan 範寬, Li Tang 李唐, Guo Xi 郭熙, Hui Zong 徽宗, Zhao Meng Jian 趙孟堅, Wang Mian 王冕 etc.
As I’ve grown in skill and confidence, I’ve realised that I want to share my work and in 2019 I began exhibiting, at Lewes Art Wave, at Brighton’s Maker's Fair, and then Artists Open House AOH.
Chinese art guided me out of a difficult time. I want to help other women who feel isolated and far from home to connect with their creativity through traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting so that they can learn valuable skills and gain joyful confidence. I now teach calligraphy and brush painting in online workshops, and have given live demonstrations in both Brighton and London. help women who feel isolated, to connect with their creativity
I’m a member of the Chinese Brush Painters Society 英國中國書畫家學會, the UK national network and information source for this fascinating ancient oriental art. And a teacher to cover its East Sussex region.
I'm also a member of Seven Seas Institute of Chinese Calligraphy 北美四海書院, and have been a guiding teacher in the Lan Ting Xu class（蘭亭序班）for two terms so far.
I'm a member of London Youlan Qin Society 倫敦幽蘭琴社 . I have participated in a few performances in London, and given a few solo performances in Brighton.
The meaning of my art
My work is heavily influenced by the philosophies of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism.
We live in a busy and troubled world. The beauty and simplicity of a single Chinese character – evolved as part of an ancient pictorial language – can be both calming and profound.
I hope that my art communicates this feeling of peace and oneness. It is my own, personal way of working towards a more harmonious society.
Here are some of my artwork. To find out the meaning behind of each painting and calligraphy, please view it at paintings page and calligraphy page. You can make a purchase there if you find one you like.
✨Thank you for reading! Jing ✨