Let Me Guide You, My Lord!

There is an old tale about Wu Daozi, a painter who lived in the eighth century in China. Tang Emperor Xuanzong hired him to paint a landscape to adorn his palace wall. When the Emperor arrived to see the painting, he admired it and liked it very much. He saw forests, high mountains, waterfalls, clouds in an immense sky, men on hilly paths, and birds in flight.

The painter told the Emperor about a cave at the bottom of the mountain where a spirit dwelled. As he was about to tell the Emperor about the cave, he entered the cave by clapping his hands and vanished. Nobody saw him again in this world.

Such anecdotes played an essential part in China’s classical education. They helped the master to guide his disciples in the right direction. The narrator tries to compare such stories with their western counterparts. The narrators told another story of a painter who did not draw an eye on an already painted dragon fearing that the dragon might come alive.

Metsys: The Prodigy

In the fifteenth century, a blacksmith named Quinten Metsys fell in love with a painter’s daughter in Antwerp. The father did not agree to the relationship. Quinten sneaked and painted a fly on the father’s panel. The painted fly looked so real that the father (painter) tried to swat it. He immediately accepted Quinten, who tied the knot with his daughter. Quinten went on to become the most successful painter in history.

Chinese Paintings Versus European Paintings

In Chinese painting, the painter is the master. Though the Emperor was high in stature yet the painter guided him. Only the painter knew the worth and essence of his painting.

According to the narrator, a Chinese painting is not meant to mimic a real place, unlike western paintings. A Chinese painter allows his audience to gallop freely and swiftly in their imaginative realms, unlike a European painter who wants the audience to borrow his eyes and look at the painting.

The Chinese painter’s viewpoint is best expressed through shanshui. It means mountain-water, where these two represent two complementary poles reflecting the Daoist view of the universe.

The mountain is Yang, and the water is Yin. The most important of this philosophy is the Middle Void that represents the place of interaction of the mountain and the water.

The narrator explains the meaning of ‘art brut.’ The genre is described as the art of artists who have no training whatsoever in their respective skills. Nek Chand is described as one of the prominent examples of ‘art brut’ as he had painted whole rock garden at Chandigarh.