Tomatoes, drawn by the late painter Fang Zhaoling, is immensely intriguing. While sharing similarities with zen paintings from Song Dynasty in China, it also bears resemblance to Western still life paintings. Tomatoes can rarely be found in Chinese paintings, but by applying the skills of Chinese ink paintings, Fang had drawn tomatoes which are full, plump and rosy. Beside the tomatoes sit a few green peppers, and the use of ink and colors reveal Fang’s spontaneous and natural style. The inscription of the painting reads, “Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian and others of the older generation love to draw persimmons, but I only draw tomatoes as they are both a vegetable and a fruit.” The few green peppers look as lively and delicate as the shrimps in Qi Baishi’s paintings. We can also imagine her desire for new stimulations and impact outside of the traditional nutrients she had absorbed given she was a female artist who was born in times of turbulence and had lived through the turning point in history.
Among the works of Fang Zhaoling you can find a good many landscape paintings, which are not limited to the depiction of the landscape in China, but also include snow mountains in Switzerland as well as other mountain ranges in Europe. The natural landscape in China can be linked to the good and evil in the human world. Deep in the mountains is where distinguished individuals live in rescue, and scholars prefer to draw landscape in order to demonstrate their pursuit on the mental. In the mountains, they hope to establish links to the great nature, thereby becoming an integral part of them. Both the landscape in the paintings and the strokes and the ink reflect the internal world of the painter. The landscape has both the external and the internal side. The depth with which Fang uses the color and ink in her paintings is a reflection of her generosity of spirit. Born in Wuxi in the early 20th century, she had lived a life through the turbulent times of the Northern warlords and the war of resistance against Japan, and had studied abroad in Hong Kong and in the United Kingdom. She had raised eight children by herself after her husband passed away. Against this background, Fang had created ink paintings showcasing heroic strength in the use of ink and colors, radiating the momentum of the great eras. During the turbulent times, she still drew about life with a sense of humor and optimism. Against the background of the magnificent landscape, the characters under her brush exude immense innocence.
Fang employed the techniques of Chinese ink paintings in Stonehenge, which depicts the famous prehistoric monument in England. The standing stones look like a few enormous gates, being wide open and natural. The enormous stones have borne witness to the passage of time over thousands of years. Fang had used her masterful strokes to paint the stones and had also written inscriptions to express her melancholy. Despite her state of agitation, the painting itself remains clear and open. Even though she had apprenticed under traditional Chinese painting masters such as Zhang Daqian and Chao Shao-An, Fang, however, did not let herself be restricted by the traditional ways. Her work The Yellow River, vividly depicted the mountainous landscape in Northwest China plagued by serious weathering and erosion. In the painting there are a few ships, on which the people seem to have closed their eyes for rest, as though they could remain composed and calm against the wind and frost.