Soul of the Land II
The Abstract Aesthetics of Contemporary Landscape Paintings
Amelie Gallery, 2011.4.9-5.31
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.
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.
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.