Hanart TZ Gallery is honoured to present Zheng Li: Reflections of the Classical Garden, the first major solo exhibition in Hong Kong of Hangzhou-based ink artist Zheng Li. His works have been shown in major exhibitions in China, including ‘One Hundred Years of Chinese Painting’ at the National Art Museum of China (Beijing), and the National Exhibitions of Fine Arts where his works have won numerous prizes. His paintings are highly sought after and are in a number of private and museum collections.
The exhibition features 18 important works of Zheng Li’s distinctive shanshui (landscape) art, which infuses classical shanshui painting concepts with the artist’s uniquely innovative interpretations of brushplay and scene.
Zheng Li’s artistic vision is beautifully articulated through the juxtapositions between the contained beauty of the classical garden and the vastness of nature which they encapsulate. The artist’s supremely confident use of inkplay is grounded in a mastery of brushwork, allowing him to create unique innovations within the lineage of the ink-painting language, making his work part of a contemporary evolution of Chinese shanshui painting rather than a subversion of it.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Zheng Li’s tour de force, Downstream. This 7-metre-long handscroll, created for the 2016 inaugural exhibition of the new Gongwang Art Museum in Hangzhou, is Zheng Li’s ‘response’ to the traditional masterpiece Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by the famed Yuan-dynasty painter Huang Gongwang (1269–1354). With Downstream, Zheng Li has forged a new chapter in the literati tradition of ‘copying’ or ‘interpreting’ ancient masters, by painting Huang Gongwang’s famous landscape scroll entirely in reverse. While Huang Gongwang’s original painting depicts the beautifully detailed landscape as the eye moves upstream along the river, in Zheng Li’s scroll we follow the landscape downstream; in a sense a reversal of both perspective and of time. Zheng Li’s tour de force also has the distinction of depicting Huang’s scroll in its entirety, uniting the two sections of Huang’s painting that were famously separated in the 17th century when the work was burnt in half, after which the two sections, known respectively as The Remaining Mountain and The Master Wuyong Scroll, passed into different collections over the centuries. The supreme technical skill and mastery of brushwork required to both imitate and reverse Huang Gongwang’s work to create Downstream is a testament to Zheng Li’s painterly skill and innovative daring.
Zheng Li also has an uncanny understanding and affinity for the aesthetics and spirit of the classical Chinese garden. He not only is able to capture the spiritual ambience of the scholar’s garden, he is also able to fashion uniquely imaginative garden compositions based on his own taste and sensibilities. At first the eye is captivated by the harmonious forms and placement of his doorways and windows, furnishings and decorative objects, bamboo and rocks, walls and pavilions; and then one slowly discovers that the overall compositional effect is like that of a mural painting on a temple wall, infusing Zheng Li’s garden paintings with the pure atmosphere of a sacred place. His works conjure a sense of intriguing duality, of both reality and illusion, like the reflection of the moon in water or a flower glowing in a distant garden, bringing into being an atmospheric world where the viewer’s own mood and sensibility become part of the setting.
Press release courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery.