SWIMMING UPSTREAM: cultures of watercolour

Exhibition in Drawing Studio / Exhibition in TheGallery

1 June – 1 July 2017

An exhibition of work by Professor Lei Yongbin, China

CRAB Drawing Studio, AUB

SWIMMING UPSTREAM: cultures of watercolour exhibition is a series of watercolours by Professor Lei Yongbin from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, China.

Ideas and materials move around our digitally connected world, but so do people. Professor Lei Yongbin, has been in residency at Arts University Bournemouth for the last year. He has immersed himself in the global visual culture that is being formed amongst the staff and students within the University. This can be seen through his portraits in this exhibition; reacting to the community of creators who have come to work and study from all corners of the globe and recording them.

People move around the world, but so do ideas and materials. Watercolour in the west has for too long been considered the media of amateurs, but in China it is a serious medium that has brought a renaissance to the painted arts. Chinese painting traditionally made use of water based ink, the arrival of water colour has evolved this art form and Lei’s work demonstrates this.

Lei uses watercolour to create these portraits from life, engaging directly with his sitters. To sit for a portrait by Lei is a unique experience. Over a sitting he works with rapid speed, the space between the viewer and the viewed visibly crackles with intensity of looking. This communication is essential to his work, in this world of snapchat and twitter it allows for a deeper rapport between artist and sitter to open up. When cultures meet, new concepts and artefacts are formed. Art is a global language, AUB is a global university and Lei’s watercolours reflect this.

A collaborative project with The Gallery, Short Courses, AUB and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute.

The history of western watercolour

Watercolours are quite sensitive, and are also one of the oldest mediums and artworks in the world, said to originate as far as the cave paintings of paleolithic Europe. Next to drawing, it is perhaps the most common and the “simplest” method of creation, in terms of what you need to do it – a supporting base, usually paper, a brush, some paints and, of course, water.

As a recognised art form, watercolour art began its journey with Renaissance, remaining present through the centuries to follow. Today, we know of famous watercolour artwork by great painters like William Blake, J.M.W. Turner, James Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Paul Klee, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Edward Hopper for instance. This form of painting found its way among the avant-garde movements as well, such as Neo-Expressionism, in the oeuvre of Francesco Clemente, Gerhard Richter, Eric Fischl and Anselm Kiefer, among others. With the development of the medium’s characteristics, watercolours are now as durable and colourful as oil or acrylic paints, and many contemporary painters continue to practice the art as their main or one of their interests.

Meet the artist: Professor Lei Yongbin

Professor Lei Yongbin was born in 1974 in E‘mei, Sichuan province of China. He graduated from the middle school attached to Sichuan College of Fine Arts in 1995 and then graduated from the watercolor studio of Luxun Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. Now he is the Vice Professor of the Public Art Department in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute.  He is also a member of the Chinese Artists Association.

Exhibitions and Achievements:

  • 2016, Afternoon in the Empty Mirror. Second prize by the sixth Chongqing City Art Exhibition.
  • 2015, The stone door in the Tanghe was exhibited at the Chinese-Asian watercolor invitational exhibition at Suzhou, China.
  • 2014, White light was selected to exhibit in the 12th National Arts Exhibition at Wuhan, China.
  • 2014, The lying Xiaoling exhibited at the Jiaorong Wanxiang – Watercolor Masters Invitational Exhibition at the Guan City Art Gallery.
  • 2014, No night was chosen to exhibit at the second National Youth Watercolor Exhibition at Jinan, China.
  •  2013, Wind in machilus and other works were exhibited at the Chongqing Youth Art Biennale at Chongqing, China.
  • 2013, time flow was selected to exhibit at the teachers’ exhibition of Sichuan College of Fine Arts at Chongqing, China.
  • 2012, Youth time exhibited at the 10th National Watercolor & Powder Painting Exhibition at Nanning, China.
  • 2012, Yin Ding Wo Yun and other works were exhibited at the Contemporary Masters Watercolor Exhibition at Emeishan museum.
  • 2012 White night won the prize of excellent works in the fifth session of Watercolor Painting and Powder Painting Exhibition of Chongqing.
  • 2011, one piece of work was exhibited in the Qiu Shou Dong Cang watercolor painting exhibition at Ningbo, China.
  • 2011, works were shown in the international watercolor painting exchange exhibition: Chinese watercolor and excellent work with high international level exhibition at Japan.
  • 2011, a watercolor painting solo exhibition Sounds of Ba Shu, held by Art of NO.19 Home, at the culture and art center of Huizhou city.
  • 2011, one of his works was selected to exhibit in the 15th Art & calligraphy & photography joint exhibition at Chongqing.
  • 2011, Human body was chosen to exhibit in the second China institute of contemporary watercolor painting art exhibition at Hangzhou, China.
  • 2009, the Season Wind won an outstanding prize in the fourth Fine Arts exhibition of Chongqing and the Eleventh National Fine Arts Exhibition & Fine Arts Works from Chongqing for Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.
  • 2009, X8126 was exhibited at the New Realism – Pioneering Works of Teachers and Students of Sichuan College of Fine Arts.
  • 2007, Mr. Lei was elected as a judge for the fourth watercolor exhibition of Chongqing.
  • 2006, Staircase Opening 11 came to Chongqing – Shenzhen Watercolor Joint Exhibition.
  • 2005, Memory with no definition was elected into the tenth National Fine Arts Exhibition and awarded the Outstanding Prize of the first time of National Watercolor Portraits Exhibition.
  • 2005, Sunny – Windy was exhibited at the third time of Chongqing Fine Arts Exhibition.
  • 2003, My Summer came to Drinking Water of the Same River – Shanghai Chongqing Watercolor Joint Exhibition.
  • 2003, Landscape was exhibited at the second Chongqing Watercolor – Pastel Painting Exhibition.
  • 1998, Not Today got a silver prize of the watercolor joint exhibition of the eastern three provinces of China.
  • 1997, A Portrait was awarded a bronze prize of the first watercolor exhibition of Liaoning Province.