Chinese Hyperrealism Artist Jun Leng Gives Painting Demonstration

The Shanghai William Chinese Art Foundation Distinguished Visiting Artist Series

April 19, 2018

The Center for Chinese Art at William Paterson University hosted visiting artist Chinese hyperrealist Mr. Jun Leng and his oil painting demonstration as part of the Shanghai William Chinese Art Foundation Distinguished Visiting Artist Series. In the morning of April 19, 2018, fans from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania waited in long line in front of the Ben Shahn Visual Art Center for the art festival presented by the Center for Chinese Art and Jun Leng. The registration reached peak capacity instantly because of its popularity. Since oil painting demonstration is best done with natural light and we could not book a bigger hall to suit this requirement, the Center decided to extend the demonstration to a full day. All registrants were divided into groups with limited length of time. Each group had 40 people and 45 minutes, demonstrations started from 10 a.m., lunch break for an hour, and ended in 5 p.m.

Professor Zhiyuan Cong, Director of the Center for Chinese Art at William Paterson University, hosted the demonstration. Professor Cong said that Jun Leng was hoping to have nine hours for the whole demonstration, but the Center for Chinese Art can only make six-hour arrangement, so after a very brief introduction, Jun Leng dove into the all-day demonstration right away.

“Watching Jun Leng painting is very satisfying,” observed Zhiyuan Cong. As an artist himself, Cong told journalists his thoughts: “Jun Leng’s painting is not big, about 16x20 inches. Surprisingly, he does not use small brushes as we assumed; instead, he uses brushes with one-inch wide tip. Despite his severe myopia, he always waves arms to stroke straight lines with his brush. As he explained himself, he ‘uses big brush to paint small paintings and does not try to duplicate the exact image, but rather catches the essence of the object.’ He has the most astonishing and the sharpest powers of observation, perfect precision with each stroke. Within about one hour, he can paint the whole image and all the face features. Just when you are enthralled by his spectacular skills, he has already started the second round for detailed retouch and recreation. While we felt nervous for him when he retouches the already perfect area, an even more perfect and captivating depiction appeared under his brush. While we were searching our brains for a color or a shape for a part, suddenly a color that suits the area perfectly dropped from nowhere. Again and again, one hour, two hours, just like that, during the six-hour long demonstration, Jun Leng kept an unbelievable, long-lasting, vigorous spirit and energy until the very end, keeping his senses and observations as fresh as in the beginning. Even in the last few minutes, he still retouched the colors of nose and eyes, what a bold yet skillful statement! Jun Leng constantly pushes himself to break boundaries, for reaching a new depth in his artworks and for pushing himself to the throne of a true master. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and Jun Leng was still unwilling to end: ‘Give me two more hours; I can paint the face features with more depth.’ My God, what a genius, unfathomable!”

Professor Zhiyuan Cong told journalists about all the conversations he had with Jun Leng during his visit at the William Paterson University. Jun Leng thinks people have incorrectly treated his hyperrealism as photorealism. He emphasizes the differences between “summary” and “refinement.” He focuses more on feelings than detailed facts when he observes his objects. For him, “summary” is more about the simplified likeness whereas “refine” is more about depiction of extracted essence. His ability of “refinement” traces back to his knowledge and training in Chinese painting in the old days. He highly praises the free style oil painting in China nowadays as it’s an oil painting development on the basis of Chinese cultures. He thinks oil painting in China should teach more about Chinese cultures and traditions, and that it’s a dead end with less profundity if the teaching of oil painting relies entirely on Western methods. He uses ultra-thin paint for dark areas to stress the space distance, and he uses thick paint for bright areas to add color richness and layers.

Professor Zhiyuan Cong also told journalists that he admires Jun Leng’s professional work ethic and his respect for art. Right after Jun Leng arrived in America, he insisted on checking the studio for his oil painting demonstration and the lighting condition—he hoped to have a fixed light source for the whole demonstration. He really did not care about his travel itineraries. He was also very happy that Professor Cong chose his printmaking assistant Olha Voytsitska, a Ukrainian student, as his oil demonstration model. To better portray Olha’s student ethos, Jun Leng decisively asked her to remove her pretty green apron. He also insisted to have finished grounding of the canvas and preparing all the colors in order on the palette despite the heavy jet lag hitting him in the afternoon. Professor Cong was touched deeply and exclaimed: “It is hard to succeed: it is much harder to achieve perfection. Jun Leng’s success all started with these basic details.”

Consul Wenmei Guo and Chengcheng Liu, both from the Cultural Office of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in New York; Dean Daryl Joseph Moore, the College of the Arts and Communication of the William Paterson University; and faculty members and students of the Visual Art College of the Arts and Communication at William Paterson University, together with more than 300 people from the tri-state area watched Jun Leng’s painting demonstration. At the end of the demonstration, on behalf of William Paterson University, Dean Moore thanked Mr. Leng for his splendid demonstration; he thanked the Cultural Office of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in New York for its ongoing support and guidance; he thanked Professor Zhiyuan Cong and the Center for Chinese Art for planning and organizing this program, and he thanked all the registrants for supporting the Center for Chinese Art and its programs.