Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Pearl Lam Gallery, Shanghai: Treasures in the back room, upstairs, and downstairs

Two months in Shanghai has cultivated my desire for ink: to absorb its tonalities, practice painting with it, and to see more examples of it. In the Swatch Art Peace Hotel library, I found a beautiful, hardcover catalog for the 2012 exhibition Chinese Contemporary Abstract, 1980s to Present, Pearl Lam's inaugural Hong Kong shows curated by Gao Minglu, respected for coining the term “apartment art” to describe the post-1989 turn in contemporary Chinese practice, and a seasoned curator. The works in the catalog, and catalog discussion focused on the relationship between Chinese art and modernism.

Olivier Krischer's Art Asia Pacific review of the show states that "Gao’s essay on the works and artists, available at the gallery, is titled “A Return to Humanity and the Natural World—An Introduction to Chinese ‘Abstraction’” and "presents a trusted band of artists, representing a trend he terms “maximalism” (jiduo zhuyi) referring to a group of such painters as yi pai—which... translates...more fittingly as “school of notion.” Gao... argues “abstraction” to be inherently associated with a Western current—from the Enlightenment through the industrial revolution and contemporary capitalism, via Euro-American modernism and Abstract Expresionism,...which leads assert that “In China, traditional poetry, calligraphy and painting all advocate togetherness, not differentiation. Therefore, art is not a reflection of the outer world, but is a restoration of a shared idea.” While Krischer objects, suggesting that the works in the exhibition are as varied and diverse as each artists's travel history and methodology, discussion about the relationship between Chinese art and modernism is welcome, as artists such as deKooning are not even visible in Asia (except Pollock for the overt relationship to calligraphic line). Such a missing link, artist Feng Lialong suggests, results from ink's double capacity to express both form and line, dissolving any separation between them.

Recently, I met with Rebecca Kozlen of the gallery's Shanghai venue to view paintings in the back room. She generously shared works by the gallery's artists and their histories, below.
Undisputed master Wang Dongling (b. 1945), Professor of the Calligraphy Department at China Academy of Art in Hongzhou, is noted for calligraphy that loses linguistic meaning in the evolution toward abstraction. The wit and flow of his brush navigates the six characteristics of ink (dry/dilute, saturated/pale, heavy/light) with ease.

 Iranian artist Golnaz Fathi adapts an alternative route, working with Shiah Mashgh, a forked, linear mark repeated again and again to prepare for calligraphy--not unlike the spiral exercises in Indian painting. 

These lines become a starting point and warm up for calligraphic gestures. Scroll down to see a wonderful collaboration between Donli and Fathi.

Wang Tiande's layered works are always shown in pairs, informing and expanding on one another.
They extrapolate from traditional Chinese scrolls, layering burn marks and symbols within traditional Chinese landscape space. Tiande's works relate  to drawings by  Francesco Longenecker, to a lesser degree, Paul Bloodgood and my own vellum drawings, though his technique and intentions focus on Chinese tradition. Tiande's upcoming exhibition at the Suzhou Museum opens July 25th--I plan to go.
Qiu Deshu, featured on this blog in a May 26 entry with Ross Lewis in their two-person at FrontLine Gallery.

Deshu's torn paper becomes a structural element unwinding through space, assuming the contours of landscape.

This owes to the serendipitous torn edge of the paper, as well as the heightened effects of fades, whites and a Mark Tobey-like mark that aggregates into form.

The sumptuous flexibility of xuan invites this kind of experimentation and beyond.

Zhu Jinshi's heavily impastoed works, here, seen in an unusual small painting.

The color was hard to get on these surfaces, but is purer, less sour, than seen here.

A better image, slightly truer to the wide range of color in the actual painting.

Su Xiaobai

Works with lacquer, wood and raised line

These materials reference traditional Chinese art as well as now: encompassing history, all and nothingness

In China, I am acutely aware of the gesture--its dynamic variety, shape, and form--both expressive vehicle and holder of volume. This dual property makes for strong intention behind the mark. Many of the artists seen here, are in the China Contemporary Hong Kong show--and some are not.
Back to the source, ink: Zheng Chongbin.

The beauty of this--a mashup of gesture, tears and wet xuan...
 JuJu Sun, recently returned from New York, where her compositions were lyrical and round, like Chinese painting

Now if informed by the environment just departed.  
Lively, even raucous paintings with decisive gestures and color
In the front gallery, Sayaka Ishizuka's sculptural aggregations
Organized in color bars or shape categories. (In Mandarin, words are 'bundled' under specific measure words that indicate long, flat objects, or books, or people--the tendency toward classification is fascinating and wonderful).
Other times, objects are presented alone.
Downstairs one finds an area dedicated to design. Scott Laughton's beautifully painted porcelain. The iPhone snaps do not do this work justice--it is flawlessly made, and painted.

Seeing this work provided wonderful contrast to the ink paintings in the back room. 

Dongling and Fathi's collaborative series, a must see for anyone interested in ink. Many thanks to Pearl Lam Gallery, Shanghai, and the artists, for such a wonderful day.