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Maastricht—Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to announce its first participation in TEFAF Maastricht 2016 (11–20 March), one of the world’s most prestigious art fairs, which will showcase 275 leading international galleries that specialise in art, antiques, and design. The Galleries will be the first Hong Kong-based gallery, and one of only three galleries from Asia, to participate in the Modern sector of the fair. Participation in TEFAF demonstrates the Galleries’ increasing presence in Europe, building on its foundation in Asia with two gallery spaces in Hong Kong, one in Shanghai, and one in Singapore.
The stand will focus on two solo shows by Chinese abstract contemporary artists Su Xiaobai and Zhu Jinshi, who will each exhibit six painting works. Both artists are representative of Yi Pai, a holistic theory of art developed by Professor Gao Minglu to better understand Chinese avant-garde, modern, and contemporary art, which Gao posits are all rooted in traditional Chinese philosophies and culture, but are also influenced by the artists’ present realities.* This will be the first time that each artist is exhibiting at the fair. As part of a legendary generation of artists who left China in the 1980s, both Su Xiaobai and Zhu Jinshi lived in Germany for a number of years, Dusseldorf and Berlin respectively, before returning to China. This has granted them unique perspectives on contemporary art, as they incorporate both traditional Chinese and Western influences into their practices.
The work of Su Xiaobai (b. 1949, Wuhan, China) is recognisable by his use of traditional Chinese materials such as lacquer, but his work is contemporary and unique. The artist focuses on essential qualities such as colour, shape, and texture, which in various combinations produce distinctive surfaces, ranging from smooth and jewel-like to carved and abraded, with their own history and character. With titles like Kuanhou-Peaceful and Kuanhou-Joyful Red, Su’s works have a poetic quality and are full of emotion. The artist is influenced by the Buddhist sutra “Everything is nothing, nothing is everything.” His works are with their own intrinsic qualities.
Su began his studies at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1987. With greater exposure to avant-garde art, in the 1990s Su began to shift away from figurative painting. He happened upon lacquer as a medium in 2003. Over the course of four to five years, Su developed his own technique of working with lacquer. His works represent his artistic choices, but are also the result of chance, as lacquer can dry in unpredictable ways. The three-dimensional quality of the artist’s works come from complex fabrication methods, including adding extruded board for support and applying layer upon layer of lacquer, often combined with water, oil, powder, and pigments, which create a surface ready to be sanded, drilled, or chiselled. Su’s dedication to the material of lacquer and his work process is akin to Zen meditation or what Gao associates with wuwoxiangsheng, “enlivening both the object and me”.
Zhu Jinshi (b. 1954, Beijing, China) is one of the pioneers of Chinese abstract and installation art. Pearl Lam Galleries will be presenting a selection of the artist’s often large-scale, vibrant oil on canvas paintings, which are characterised by Zhu’s thick layering of paint that gives his works a three- dimensional, sculpture-like effect. The paint is applied with shovels and other heavy-duty implements and the works themselves take several years to dry. Zhu’s approach to abstraction comes from the ink approach where the mind must be empty, and the artist's hands connected to heaven, earth, and heart to manifest the work. The artist must be meditative to connect and make the strokes in a state of tian di ren, "the ultimate peace in the unity of the three (heaven, earth and man) in one”.
While the influence of traditional Chinese culture is present in the marked influence of Chinese traditional landscape painting, these contemporary abstract paintings and Zhu’s continuous exploration of the art form over the past 35+ years are a unique and enriching contribution to the history of abstract art in both Asia and the west.
Yi Pai, Gao Minglu’s theory of Chinese abstract art, as discussed in his recent book, argues that as opposed to Western art, Chinese abstract art does not evolve from Modernism but from ancient Chinese beliefs, traditions, and philosophies—particularly the ink brush philosophy and principles from the Tang Dynasty where the Three Perfections (calligraphy, painting, and poetry) are combined in one.
Although they were exposed to new forms of art upon their moves to Germany, where they were surrounded by a whole new culture, both Su Xiaobai and Zhu Jinshi found themselves looking inwardly at their Chinese roots—at the rich Chinese traditions of calligraphy, cursive script, poetry, Taoism, Buddhism, and other ancient artistic and spiritual practices stillat the heart ofChinese culture—to frame their artistic practices. It is through a Chinese perspective that these artists filter modern influences on their art.
*Gao Minglu is one of the world’s leading scholars of Chinese contemporary art. He served as editor of China’s leading art magazine Meishu in the 1980s. Gao received his Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently a research professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I’m thrilled that, for the first time, Pearl Lam Galleries will be participating in TEFAF Maastricht. It’s a pleasure to know that we are the first Hong Kong-based gallery to exhibit in the Modern sector of this prestigious art fair. Both Su Xiaobai’s and Zhu Jinshi’s works incorporate traditional Chinese and modern influences in unique styles. I am especially excited to expose them to a wider international audience and continue the discourse on different forms of Chinese contemporary art.”
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