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Chinese painting techniques: Autumn Lotus Pond, a painting on paper by Yang Yanping

The tradition of painting in China stretches back over 2000 years. The techniques used, as well as the range of pigments, continued to be employed through many centuries. However, within the last fifty years radical changes which challenge this long-established tradition have been adopted by many Chinese artists. Access to synthetic pigments, acrylic and oil paints, along with a much wider exposure to artistic influences worldwide have conspired to change our perception of what Chinese art really is.

For example, the appearance of a signature and an artist's seal or 'chop' on a painting no longer assures the conservator of a strict adherence to the traditions of Chinese painting. Many Chinese artists live and work outside China and freely incorporate Western themes and perhaps more importantly Western materials. There is no guarantee that paintings incorporating more traditional imagery will necessarily be executed using the traditional materials.

In this modern painting of a traditional Chinese subject the artist Yang Yanping has applied paint to the surface using crushed paper. There is only minimal brushwork, for example to delineate the details of the lotus leaves. The conservator must approach paintings such as this with extreme caution and never assume that any modern work is exactly as it might appear.