To honor and to challenge the age-old form of Chinese ink painting deeply rooted in history amid a rapidly modernizing and fluid state serves as a daunting task. Yet for the past two decades, we have been privileged to witness our group of contemporary Chinese ink painters pour their heart and soul into their meticulous practice, capturing the beauty and spirit of China’s natural world. The Chinese Porcelain Company is pleased to present Winter Lotus Garden: Nature in Contemporary Chinese Ink. This show features a glimpse into earlier works of many of the stars of contemporary ink and their disciples: Zeng Xiaojun, Tai Xiangzhou, Lee Chunyi, Zhang Yirong, and Zhao Xu.
This exhibition features a haunting depiction of a tree root by Zeng Xiaojun, who we have been privileged to work with since the early 2000s. An avid collector of Ming and Qing furniture as well as scholar’s objects, Zeng Xiaojun is most passionate about wood and scholar’s rocks, reflecting an unusual resonance between his paintings and collected objects. Tree Study No. 3 demonstrates Zeng Xiaojun’s mastery of classical painting techniques with his artistic flair of strangeness and mystery.
Tai Xiangzhou, who we have featured in consecutive Asia Week solo exhibitions, once again executes deeply imagined and elegant landscape paintings. In his “Genesis” series, immovable and deeply etched mountain crags and cliffs still find movement and even lightness in their curving rock formations. Tai’s ever engaging paintings, rendered in the finest ink, reveal deeper levels of detail and meaning upon repeated viewings. His work invites the viewer to contemplate not just the features of the natural world but how they echo the dimensions of a spiritual one.
The elegance of nature’s visage is on full display in Lee Chunyi’s Heart Landscape. Lee Chunyi finds poetry in earth’s contours, as brilliantly showcased in this landscape painting over which he meticulously stamped the entire text of an 18th century poem. He mimics the texture of rock tablets by using the unconventional tool of cork, custom made into square tiles and used as ink stamps. The viewer finds himself not flying above but rather wandering amidst towering trees deep in the woods of China’s heartlands.
Zhang Yirong is known for her sophisticated nature paintings. Hidden within each study of flowers are evocative details of fluttering petals and quivering leaves. Zhang frequents China’s botanical gardens and parks throughout the seasons; her paintings are technically flawless with a poetic charm. Zhang uses only the finest Qianlong era inks, and handmade Chengxing paper. She layers thin washes of ink to create form and shape, and constructs a light outline of each flower, giving her work a soft and elegant feel. The effects of fine materials, coupled with her masterful use of the brush and an unparalleled passion, can be seen in these three paintings.
We are pleased to include the works of a rising star of contemporary ink, our youngest artist: Zhao Xu. Zhao Xu isolates a single piece of nature and applies his lens of sensitivity and extreme observational skills, as evident in his pair of large scale lotus pod paintings. Likewise in Pine Tree, Zhao applies the same technical prowess on a common place pine tree, capturing every cervix and leaf to evoke a beautiful solitude. He does not merely repeat the modes of the past, but seeks to make them new and relevant for today’s audiences. The results are contemplative and moving in their massive scale and meditative grace.