Zhou Changxin travels throughout the country to paint isolated places. Deng Zhangyu reports.
Zhou Changxin travels in a truck loaded with painting supplies to China's wildest and most beautiful places, which he depicts on canvas.
He has traversed nearly all of the hundreds of counties in the country over the past two decades. The artist has visited the Tibet autonomous region's snowcaps, Yunnan province's rice terraces and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region's dunes.
His mission, he says, is to "depict the planet's pure beauty".
Zhou's latest show of 113 oil paintings－mostly of landscapes－running at Beijing's National Museum of China are selected from hundreds of works.
"I hope viewers can smell the sweet air, and feel the clean water and soft wind in my paintings, just like I do when painting in nature," the 45-year-old says in his Beijing studio.
His exposure to the elements has made him thin and tanned.
Zhou often drives for months to find "ideal" scenery. He typically finished works on site.
He'll often paint for hours and produce several pieces during a single stop.
"He's crazy about painting in the wilderness and is extremely diligent," his longtime friend Xu Hang says.
Xu recalls Zhou once painted for hours in subzero temperatures on a snowy mountain in Tibet, despite the cold that afflicted his mouth and hands.
The artist began focusing on landscapes after visiting Tibet in 1995. He describes the autonomous region as a place of "holy mountains and lakes". Even the flowers there are pristine, he says.
Zhou's teacher, mural painter Du Dakai, says he enjoys the vibrant blossoms Zhou paints. His focus on the wild is what has made Zhou prominent, Du says.
Zhou sometimes endures danger. He once got lost in Tibet－a place he has visited five times－during a 45-day drive through the region. The artist ended up in no-man's land－a place not even locals dare tread－for two weeks. But he produced about a hundred works during that time.
He often faces storms, landslides and tornadoes.
"I feel like a yak," Zhou says, joking about painting at altitudes exceeding 5,600 meters, where most people experience altitude sickness.
"I'm used to spending a long time painting at high elevations. I feel exuberant vitality of creations upon discovering flowers there."
Zhou's favorite Chinese destination is Yunnan. He has regularly visited the province to paint over the past 13 years. He's familiar with each of the province's counties' respective histories, cultures and geography.
"(It's) the best place to create," he says.
His style combines oils with xieyi ink painting－a freehand form that portrays the spirit, rather than the details, of a subject.
It's ideal for depicting Yunnan's colorful landscapes and traditional ethnic attire.