The National Art Gallery, Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum of the National Heritage Board is deeply saddened by the passing of renowned Chinese artist Mr Wu Guanzhong late Friday night at 11.57 pm in a Beijing Hospital on 25 June 2010. Wu passed away peacefully at the hospital together with his family members. He was 91 years of age.
2 On behalf of both museums, Mr Kwok Kian Chow, Director of the National ArtGallery, Singapore, said, “We are deeply saddened by the demise of Mr Wu Guanzhong, one of the leading Chinese artists over the last century and a dearly beloved friend of Singapore. A giant amongst artists of his generation, Wu was an inspiration to many and a towering figure in the artistic world. His matchless act of philanthropy to our National Collection and to the people of Singapore will always be deeply appreciated. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
3 In 2008, Wu Guanzhong donated to the national collection of Singapore his largest and most comprehensive collection of 113 oil and ink paintings presented to a public museum. Together with an earlier donation of one work, the Singapore collection of 114 works painted over five decades represents Wu’s entire creative oeuvre. These works were valued back then at about SGD$73.7 million. They represent the highest valued donation of artworks to any museum in Singapore.
4 Born in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, in 1919, Wu studied at the China Art Academy of Hangzhou in 1936 and was trained in oil and ink painting, graduating from the academy in 1942. From 1946 to 1950, he traveled to Paris to study at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts on a government scholarship. Wu painted primarily in oil from the 1950s to the year 1974, when he transited to ink painting, calling the moment an “entrepôt” (an intermediary period) in his transition from oil to ink.
5 One of China’s most gifted artists, Wu Guanzhong epitomised the brilliance of cross cultural insights in his artistic creations. The artist painted with a warmly felt spirit of sharing, and his artistic works skillfully blended one’s life experiences, learning encounters and creative visions. Wu Guanzhong called this creative tension the “unbroken kite-string.”
6 A key significance of Wu Guanzhong’s painting is the crossing and synthesising of both oil and ink art forms. Wu’s approach paid homage to their respective art historical and aesthetic contexts, and he stood right in the middle of the crossroads of the painting traditions of the East and the West. Celebrated by international art scholars, Wu’s signature style of crisscrossing and repetitious lines captured a vivid representation of “life-forces" which energized foliage, landscapes and old trees.
7 A prolific writer, Wu’s literary and art theoretical writings were recently anthologised in a seven-volume publication. His reputation has so impressed art historian Michael Sullivan that he was singled out together with Vincent Van Gogh as a rare example of an artist who was deeply thoughtful and articulate with both the brush and the pen. Van Gogh, along with Shitao and the writer Lu Xun, were regarded by Wu as creators who inspired him most.
8 To honour the memory of the great artist and his unparalleled act of philanthropy to Singapore, the National Art Gallery will be naming a gallery after Wu Guanzhong in its future premises. Works from his sizable donation will be rotated for public viewing in the future gallery. Members of the public are invited to view Wu’s works currently displayed at Singapore Art Museum.