Chapter 236 – These Two Paintings

Everyone’s preferences and aesthetics were different, and being a gathering of master-level individuals, when their ideas clashed, it ignited intense intellectual sparks. This academic clash wasn’t akin to market brawls; it was a vigorous exchange leading to the sharing of knowledge and skills. Whether actively participating in debates or listening from the sidelines, everyone found it highly enriching.

Chen Li didn’t join the discussions but stood on the sidelines, listening to the debates of the masters with great concentration. He was focused because he learned a lot from their debates and gained deep insights.

No skill was developed in isolation, not even painting. It had always been a blend of various influences before establishing its unique style. Chen Li suddenly understood why Zhuge Yu had insisted on his attendance at this exchange event.

Half an hour into the event, Chen Li felt like his brain couldn’t contain all the knowledge he had acquired that day. He wished he had a few more heads to store all the information from the masters’ discussions.

Zhuge Yu didn’t engage in the discussions either but stayed close to Chen Li. Given Chen Li’s current situation, Zhuge Yu naturally wouldn’t leave him alone in this kind of environment.

When the participants in the discussions noticed Zhuge Yu and Chen Li, they invited them to join in.

“Master Zhuge, why not have your student join the discussion? Let us have the opportunity to learn from you, Master Zhuge.”

This person’s words garnered agreement from others who looked towards Zhuge Yu with anticipation.

The person had already put Zhuge Yu in a situation where he couldn’t refuse. By humbling himself and expressing the desire to learn, Zhuge Yu had no choice but to participate. If he stayed silent now, it would come across as dismissive.

Zhuge Yu was well aware of this person’s intentions. He looked at the individual and commented, “I assume you painted this piece yourself? The whole painting is like you, flashy but lacking substance.”

A simple statement from Zhuge Yu had left the man red-faced. He was a painter who had recently received an invitation to participate in this exchange event. He hoped to make a big impression during this event, so the artwork he had submitted was the one he was most proud of from the past year.

However, the reality was that the few masters critiquing his work at this moment had both praised and criticized it. Their comments were mixed, unlike Zhuge Yu’s straightforward denial, which concluded that his work was flashy but lacked substance.

This was undoubtedly a harsh critique for him.

Just as the man thought others would share his dissatisfaction with Zhuge Yu’s comment, he sensed that their expressions had a subtle undertone, not of solidarity but rather a hint of mockery.

The man’s assessment was accurate. Those who had critiqued his artwork earlier had already detected from his enthusiastic attitude that the artwork was his own. They had given a perfunctory assessment, as he was present and was keenly watching, but he hadn’t expected the man to take it seriously and even arrogantly invite Master Zhuge to critique his work.

He seemed to believe that Master Zhuge would be as easygoing as the rest. However, in the circle, Master Zhuge was renowned for his directness. He wouldn’t beat around the bush, regardless of whether he liked the work or not. He would speak his mind straightforwardly, even if it left people feeling frustrated.

Without wasting words on this person, Zhuge Yu felt that the atmosphere had been disrupted. With Chen Li, he turned and left.

The man who had just received a critique from Zhuge Yu, feeling indignant, watched Zhuge Yu’s departing back with resentment in his eyes. It was unclear what he was contemplating.

The exchange event continued, but an unusual phenomenon occurred in the traditional Chinese painting and non-traditional Chinese painting sections. In both areas, one painting had halted the steps of everyone who saw it. Once their eyes landed on this artwork, they couldn’t look away.

At this moment, even those who were previously engaged in heated discussions found themselves at a loss for words. They felt that their own expressions were utterly inadequate and that they didn’t even have the right to critique this artwork.

No, they couldn’t even call it critique. They felt that in front of this painting, they didn’t possess the qualifications to critique it. Many people were captivated, whether it was in the traditional Chinese painting section or the non-traditional Chinese painting section. There was a powerful force that seemed to penetrate their hearts and souls, resonating with them on a deep level.

Due to the anonymity of the paintings, they didn’t know who the creators of these two artworks were. But at this moment, they had no desire to search for the artists, as they were fully immersed in the emotions and narratives conveyed by these two paintings. They couldn’t bear to detach themselves.

Zhou Zhuoran stared blankly at the Chinese painting in front of him. He had no way of knowing what the creator had in mind when painting this artwork. However, at this moment, he could feel his heart beating strongly, as if something was fiercely resonating within him, bringing tears to his eyes.

When Zhou Zhuoran realized he was crying, he tried to wipe away his tears with his hand. Yet, as he raised his hand, he noticed that many others in the room were silently shedding tears as well. It turned out there were many people like him, deeply moved by the painting.

Suddenly, Zhou Zhuoran began to understand the meaning behind the professor’s words. Chen Li’s painting had a soul.

Before seeing this painting, he had been puzzled, wondering what a “painting with a soul” meant and how a painting could possess a soul. However, after seeing this artwork, he had an epiphany.

A painting with a soul was one that could touch people’s hearts, resonating so strongly that it compelled everyone to connect with it. Undoubtedly, the painting before his eyes was a work of art with a soul.

The professor stood beside Zhou Zhuoran, his gaze also fixed on this painting, with his amazement and admiration clearly evident. Finally, he mumbled a sentence, “His skills have improved again.” The “he” referred to was, of course, Chen Li. The professor had already recognized this painting as Chen Li’s work. He had seen countless exceptional artworks, but very few possessed a soul, and Chen Li was one of them.

Therefore, when he first saw this painting, he had immediately identified it as Chen Li’s creation. It had made significant progress in many aspects, and these improvements could only be described as astonishingly rapid.

Upon hearing the professor’s quiet remark, Zhou Zhuoran immediately understood that “he” in the professor’s words referred to Chen Li. He felt a mix of amazement and other emotions but realized that there was no room for other feelings. Just as the professor had said, some people had extraordinary talent. Instead of trying to surpass them, it was often more productive to focus on taking the current step, grounded, and working towards achieving their own dreams.

The professor noticed Zhou Zhuoran’s emotional state and nodded with satisfaction in his heart. The two paintings in the traditional and non-traditional Chinese painting sections had left a profound impact on the entire art exchange event. As the mentors of these two artworks’ creator, Zhuge Yu and Master Sun had found a place to sit down, offering critiques of several outstanding paintings they had seen that day. Chen Li sat beside them, listening intently to their feedback and carefully noting down important points.

As they were focused on their critiques, a car arrived at the entrance of the gallery. A man in a white suit stepped out, and while his appearance wasn’t particularly striking, his piercing fox-like eyes possessed an undeniable charm.

This man was Chen Yunlan, also among the invitees to the art exchange event. After getting out of the car, he cast a glance at the gallery’s entrance, his lips curving into a captivating smile. He shut the car door and walked towards the gallery.

The first person to notice Chen Yunlan’s arrival was Zhao Liyou, the president of the Beijing Calligraphy and Painting Association. He was so surprised when he saw Chen Yunlan that he couldn’t even react in time. He quickly went to greet him.

“Mr. Chen, welcome, welcome!” Zhao Liyou extended his hand to greet Chen Yunlan. He hadn’t expected Chen Yunlan to attend this art exchange event. Despite sending him numerous invitations, this was the first time Chen Yunlan had actually come.

“President Zhao,” Chen Yunlan nodded and briefly shook his hand.

Soon, Chen Yunlan noticed that many people were focused on one particular painting, and their expressions were filled with enthusiasm. This piqued his curiosity. What kind of artwork could unite the opinions of these art professionals in such a way?

Seeing Chen Yunlan’s attention on the painting, Zhao Liyou spoke, “This painting was created by a highly talented young artist. He’s a disciple of Zhuge Yu and Master Sun…”

Before he could finish his sentence, Zhao Liyou realized his mistake. He had mentioned Master Sun in front of Chen Yunlan. This was a blunder because it was common knowledge that Chen Yunlan and Master Sun had publicly severed their relationship as master and disciple. Zhao Liyou had essentially provided an opportunity for Chen Yunlan to feel uncomfortable.

But in the next moment, Zhao Liyou realized he had made an even more grievous error. When Chen Yunlan and Master Sun had ended their relationship, Master Sun had explicitly stated that he and Chen Yunlan would never meet again. This realization was causing Zhao Liyou an immense headache.

The invitations extended to Chen Yunlan and Master Sun had been purely a formality; Zhao Liyou had known they were unlikely to attend, as neither had come to any previous art exchange events.

However, was this exchange meeting favored by the goddess of misfortune? How come these two gods who never paid any attention to exchange meetings both appeared this time.

Although at this point, Zhao Liyou’s heart was already filled with bitterness, there was no change on his face. Chen Yunlan didn’t seem to notice anything, or maybe he did notice but simply chose to ignore it. He was more interested in the young man Zhao Liyou mentioned.

Chen Yunlan was quite curious about what kind of talent this young man possessed that made Zhuge Yu and Sun Ruocheng both take him as their disciple.

“Well, speaking of it, this young man is also my junior disciple,” Chen Yunlan said with some vague meaning, heading toward the painting.

Zhao Liyou couldn’t quite figure out the meaning behind Chen Yunlan’s words, so he decided not to say anything and just followed Chen Yunlan to see Chen Li’s painting.

More and more people noticed Chen Yunlan’s arrival, and a commotion started to spread. Seeing that Chen Yunlan was about to look at the painting, they all made way for him.

Chen Yunlan stood in front of Chen Li’s painting, and even he, for a moment, was deeply moved by the emotions expressed in the painting.

Undoubtedly, this was a painting full of hope. Seeing this painting, even those deep in the darkness could feel hope through it.

For a brief moment, Chen Yunlan felt as if countless shades of green were surging towards him, the air was remarkably fresh, and his entire being expanded. It was like being lost in a desert for a very long time and suddenly seeing an oasis ahead, finding hope in life.

However, this feeling only lasted for a moment. After that moment, Chen Yunlan looked down on the painting with disdain.

Hope? Where does hope come from in life? Those who have fallen into darkness can only struggle in the darkness, like walking corpses, not even knowing the meaning of living.

The so-called oasis is nothing more than a mirage seen by those on the verge of death. You will die anyway, and living…

Well, living without any life.

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