Freehand strokes are not only demonstrated in Chinese calligraphy and paintings. Many European oil paintings, from the era of impressionism, have taken freehand strokes as an important part of paining ontology language to deliver art creators spirits. If Monets Impression, Sunrise with no freehand strokes, the color white in the painting would not be rich in movement of color and light that appear in the sunrise. If van Goghs Self-portrait did not have firm and resilient strokes, the special strong and vital temperament in his works would disappear completely. And if Baselitzs Person Standing on His Head did not have strokes full of spiritual tension, then his works would definitely not have such strong manifestations. As we can see, freehand strokes have played an important role in modern exploration of oil paintings.
However, these freehand strokes of European oil paintings are not exactly the same as those of pen and ink in Chinese calligraphy and paintings. Besides quality of freehand works in ordinary sense, pen and ink of Chinese calligraphy and paintings also emphasize cultural quality of freehand works. What southern school emphasizes are cultural interests and charm and refinement of human nature. Anchorage by painting and the quality of being innocent, faint, simple, and profound are the highest state of freehand strokes for pen and ink of southern school after character cultivation. Advocating of pen and ink of southern school leads freehand works of pen and ink of Chinese paintings to abandon graceful and simple development and turn to strongly expressive pen and ink development. Freehand strokes in pen and ink of southern school gradually became rules prohibitions and aesthetic pattern in pen and ink of Chinese paintings.
Li Nanfengs ink wash portraits allow us to reflect on the entire freehand pen and ink system of Chinese paintings. His ink wash portraits are different from freehand Chinese portraits we are used to and always see. The language he uses is not meaning and content in pen and ink of the language system of southern school. If we judge from the aesthetic view of pen and ink language system of southern school, his pens and ink are thick, black, wild, and chaotic faulty strokes
lack of culture. However, when we put aside the opinion of traditional southern school, we can find that Li Nanfengs works have strong nature of expressive freehand pen and ink, and these expressions deeply state his willful thoughts on modern society and his profound attention to human fate. Compared with delicately beautiful, free easy, and peaceful elegant pen and ink of southern school, Li Nanfeng pursues a clumsy childish, rough, and simple honest style. He directly uses these dense, thick, and black pen and ink in showing the images of human bodies and portraits; and tries to push the expression of these pens and ink freehand works to a new realm, so as to overwhelm peoples visual nerves. However, when he completely abandons aesthetic norms of southern school pen and ink and even pen and ink techniques completely, he, therefore, exposes his own bitter attitudes towards life, sad and pitiful humane feelings, and suffering realist views in the eyes of the public. The soul hidden in these paintings is barely hung in the eyes of the public; seeming to be timid, fragile, anxious and uneasy. His works reveal the popular psychological feelings in this era of hi-tech civilization.
It seems that freehand pen and ink system of Chinese painting still lacks another kind of freehand stroke language, another realization force, which is one kind of aesthetic conviction we obtain in Li Nanfengs works. It is undeniable that Li Nanfeng borrows from some western modernism paintings, and he absorbs and integrates African cultures and mysterious spirit of primitivism. But, this does not hinder Li Nanfengs modernity creation on ink wash portraits and this kind of creation allows us to deeply see the necessity of borrowing and implanting exotic cultures in exploiting aesthetic realm of Chinese paintings.
At Art periodical office on April 10, 2008
(Editor-in-chief of Art: Shang Hui)
编辑： 艺术家 本文来源：Another Realm of Ink Wash Portraits