I have always believed that painting is concerned with visual observation—a process that primarily relies on seeing and feeling rather than on language. I hope that viewers can become aware of this process and that they themselves are able to understand painting through observation, in the process unlocking their own unique perspectives.
While there are many artists that I like, Cézanne, Morandi, and Sanyu have consistently stimulated my love for painting and also helped me to resolve many problems in my own work.
In my opinion, colour, form, and subject are tightly intertwined in Cézanne's work, and this is what separates his perspective from that of his predecessors. Morandi further developed this technique, through his use of both the horizon line and purposefully pale colours to blur the boundaries between the abstract and the figurative, geometry and flesh. Sanyu's approach to painting is remarkably similar to both Cézanne's and Morandi's; however, his method is inherently Eastern—he uses oils to paint the inks in his heart. A fascinating visual trajectory can be traced between these three formidable artists' works. It not only inspires subsequent artists, but also continually challenges the viewer to interpret painting anew.
I did not take these observations from a book, but came to them by looking at the artworks themselves. Ideally, I hoped to be able to use visual rather than linguistic tools to present the details that I had observed. As artists, we often work in this manner, repeatedly enlarging a detail that our eyes have noticed, processing it and returning to it at a later point to see whether or not another side has been revealed. I believe that this process can explain how painting came to be where it is today. Contemporary painting often places importance on the present and the future, but this does not stop artists from seeking links with the past as well. Innovation is not simply plucked out of thin air.
Perhaps this is not the kind of exhibition that you had imagined, and perhaps I am not the type of curator that you had expected. As a painter myself, I have chosen to curate an exhibition of paintings to express my own response to these three important painters' works.
Curated by Zeng Fanzhi
Press release courtesy Gagosian.