Soul of the Land II
The Abstract Aesthetics of Contemporary Landscape Paintings

Amelie Gallery, 2011.4.9-5.31
Artists: Huang Jing, Xie Sen, Yu Chengyou, Li Xin, Ling Junwu, Ralph Kiggell (UK)

Curator: Tony Chang

As an extension of a series of exhibitions researching contemporary landscape paintings, Soul of the Land II presents the works of artists Huang Jing, Xie Sen, Yu Chengyou, Li Xin and Ling Junwu etc., who have been working in landscape themes for a long time. The vast, rolling landscape and the myriad lakes, mountains and rivers have been affecting the artists' personalities, but their works have all transcended realism to be filled with a subjective and expressive spirit. Their differing methods embody the abstract aesthetics of visual language.

The traditional perceptive sensibility of the East seems to reject purely rational abstract forms. When reflected in painting, China's abstract aesthetics are mostly connected with the imagery, adding spiritual depth to concrete images. For instance, in the tradition of Chinese ink painting, the chapping technique, used for rendering the surface texture of mountains, arose out of a need to depict nature. It enjoyed extraordinary development during the Five Dynasties and the Two Songs periods. In the "Mi Family landscape" style of Mi Fu and Mi Youren, the freehand flourishes of the chapping technique were no longer limited to the function of creating a resemblance, and the pursuit of realistic, feasible, traversable images in landscape art took strides towards a more spiritual, abstract realm. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, great masters such as Shi Tao once again pushed the beauty of ink painting patterns to the extreme, as the chapping pattern morphed into a medium for expressing the artist's inner sentiments, radiating the literati soul between resemblance and abstraction. A look at the contemporary landscape art practices of Huang Jing, Xie Sen, Yu Chengyou, Li Xin and Ling Junwu will help us to better understand the contemporary continuation and innovation of the Chinese abstract traditions under the influence of western modernism and abstract art.

Spring Pine Trees by
Mi Fu, Song Dynasty.

Huang Jing's landscapes reveal restrained spontaneity and introversion. The spirit soars boldly through the murky clouds and fog. The forms of plants, mountains, rivers and trees are intentionally rendered in a flat manner, distilled as pure symbols used to aid the rhythm of vision and color. The beautiful silhouettes of women are intertwined with lotus flower imagery, and the pure grey tone seems to be shrouded in a misty air. The Landscapes with Windows series thrusts the landscapes into window frames, lending them a sense of being from the other side, so close yet seemingly unreachable, like gazing at the moon through a skylight, revealing the limitations of the present self.
Artist Huang Jing Intro>

In Xie Sen's landscapes, inanimate objects have been reduced to fields and planes. A hazy impressionist light fills the image with clear and soft sunrays. In works such as Remembrances of Shepherd Songs, the muted light seems to be more than just a record of an instantaneous impression. The image structure is pure and powerful, and the images have been imbued with the somber tones of timelessness: old friends long lost, history like a fog, the artist faces the myriad changes in this vast world, and slips into elegiac meditation.
The dreamlike landscapes in Yu Chengyou's art tell legends of the spirit, and his poetic lines are splashed with magnificent pure colors. He infuses the North landscape with abstract constructs, seeking out formal beauty in his lines. Natural still objects are orderly arranged for the purity of the artist's image structure. His bird paintings have the exquisite vividness of Northern Song bird and flower paintings but also the succinct flawlessness of modern abstract form while maintaining the purity of classical eastern philosophy.

Travelling Through Xishan by
Fan Kuan, Song Dynasty.

Li Xin's abstraction is manifested in his exquisite rendering of the textures of mountains and trees. Here, chains of mountains become the body of the metaphysical spirit, encompassing a vast and relentless internal power. Sometimes the sense of mass is no longer important; the heaviness recedes into the distance with the clamorous uproar, while the solemn and heavy grey tones are brimming with the primordial essence of the mountains and rivers, giving a sense of the bizarre powers of timelessness within the stillness. The forcefulness of Li Xin's work reminds people of the Five Dynasties and Two Songs landscape style embodied in Fan Kuan's Travelling Through Xishan: a remote, desolate, tranquil and mysterious land like the stillness at the dawn of time.
Artist Li Xin Intro>

Huang Jing, Xie Sen, Yu Chengyou, Li Xin and Ling Junwu were born between the 1950s and early 1970s. Their abstract expressive powers have been crafted through years of effort, as they follow their Chinese landscape heritage with its emphasis on the spirit. The canvas has become a mirror into their souls, clearly reflecting an eastern sense of the spiritual realm of landscape art. In the context of fusion between Chinese abstract painting traditions and western modernism, their applications of abstract visual language provide useful contemporary specimens.

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