Art Professor Zhiyuan Cong is Finalist in Major International Art Competition

Cong takes a break atop the ladder he uses to reach the top of his artwork

The artist tests colors on a small rendering of his painting

William Paterson University professor of art and master Chinese artist Zhiyuan Cong is a finalist in an international art competition governed by China Culture and Arts Council, and organized by the China National Academy of Painting and the National Art Museum of China.

More than 335 drawings from China and 42 additional countries were submitted for the competition. The international art project committee selects all competing artists based on qualification, theme, concept, composition, final drawing and final colored painting, through multiple voting and elimination procedures. As of January 2018, 74 international finalists were left. Among them is Cong, selected based on his submission of a standard-sized drawing depicting his final, proposed project for the competition: “Song of the Phoenix: Paper Money Delivered to the West,” a painting across five panels of rice paper mounted to silk, measuring a total 201 inches wide and 99 inches high. 

Cong, an internationally known artist and teacher, has works in museums and private collections on both sides of the globe. For his competition piece, he chose the topic “First Paper Money.” China was the first country to use paper money, followed by Persia, then India, Greece and Italy. These countries found that paper money opened more trade possibilities and made the Silk Road the most popular international trading route. Cong’s work will tell the comprehensive story of the Silk Road through paper money and its contribution to international trade and cultural exchange. 

Cong’s multi-level creative process began with research in 2014 and continued through the years with his concept and a small drawing, then a larger drawing which was transferred to wall-size paper in charcoal. Cong is spending the summer in the University’s Power Art Center for the most time-consuming piece of his project – recreating the images by hand, in color paint, on five panels of rice paper. He will transport the panels to China in October, where he will adhere them to silk for the final presentation to the competition committee. 

“The painting aims to record and reflect far back into history when the epic East-West exchange had its glorious and magnificent moment, to express contemporary mankind's vision for mutual development and the ideal of a peaceful world,” Cong says, adding that he feels “very fortunate” to have had his artwork voted through multiple times by the majority of the international art project committee.

The winning artist will be selected in early 2019, and his/her work will become part of the permanent collection of the National Art Museum of China.