The traveling exhibition Painting and Existence: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Abstract Painting began its journey in February 2019 at Tang Contemporary Art Hong Kong. The show traveled to Whitestone Gallery in Taipei in August 2019, and it will now close at both of Tang Contemporary Art's Beijing spaces. As the conclusion to the show, this exhibition will present more than 70 abstract paintings by 35 Chinese, Japanese, and Korean artists, tracing the development of abstract painting from its beginnings with Gutai in Japan in the 1950s to Dansaekhwa in South Korea in the 1970s to its emergence in China in the late 1980s to the present.
The Gutai Art Association was founded by Jiro Yoshihara in 1954 and the group dissolved after his death in 1972. The principles behind Gutai were fully elaborated in 'The Gutai Manifesto,' which stated: 'Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter. In Gutai Art, the human spirit and matter shake hands with each other while keeping their distance.' Within this framework, Gutai members engaged in a range of aesthetic experiments. Tsuyoshi Maekawa and Shuji Mukai are important second-generation Gutai artists, who maintained their creative drive after the group disbanded. Tsuyoshi Maekawa employs the rough texture of burlap, to which he adds adhesive and oil paint; he has continued to use burlap as a distinctive medium throughout his entire creative career. Shuji Mukai builds spaces using oils, books, and even sections of canvas, covering all visible surfaces with hand-drawn designs. These experiments have given Gutai an important place in the history of contemporary art in Asia and it remains influential even today.
Dansaekhwa began in the 1970s and was part of the Korean art scene for more than a decade. The ideas of the movement have also appeared in the work of the younger generation of artists. Dansaekhwa and Gutai were important and influential movements in Asian modern and contemporary art history. Key Dansaekhwa artists include Ha Chong-Hyun, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan, and Yun Hyong-Keun. Dansaekhwa was characterised by the use of pure colour, repeated applications of paint, and simple visual experiences. In the 1970s, artists used this style to express their material poverty and their desire to resist the military government. Influenced by ancient Korean scholar and calligrapher Gim Jeong-hui, Yun Hyong-Keun thinned paint with turpentine so that he could more easily apply washes to his canvases and create an effect similar to traditional ink and wash painting on xuan paper. Lee Ufan is one of the most important post-war Asian artists, serving as a leader for both Mono-ha and Dansaekhwa. After Mono-ha ended in 1972, he embarked upon explorations of brushwork, voids, and spaces for several decades. After Lee Ufan moved to Japan, he traveled often between South Korea and Japan, playing an important role in artistic exchange between the two countries.
Influenced by Western art, Chinese artists began to engage with abstract art in the 1980s. The majority of the '85 New Wave artists who started an abstract practice used abstract art to rebel against and subvert the art system and mainstream values. At that time, abstract painting was significant because it established a new set of values, a realist and political mode of abstraction. In the 1990s, artists began to develop abstract painting techniques with an individual style. The context for abstract painting had changed, giving rise to brushstroke abstraction, conceptual abstraction, and hard-edge abstraction. Artists experimented with mediums, textures, forms, and concepts, and they focused on the expression of everyday, personal experiences, exploring the relationship between personal methods and art historical contexts.
This exhibition begins with Chinese artists active in abstract art in the 1980s and 1990s, such as Shang Yang, Yu Youhan, Liang Quan, Zhu Jinshi, Chen Wenji, Ma ShuqingTan Ping, Ding Yi, Feng Lianghong, Ye zhou and Qu Fengguo. The show then continues with members of the younger generation, such as Xue Feng, Ou Jin, Zhang Xuerui, Chi Qun, Ju Ting, Li Kezheng, Leng Guangmin, Shen Zhenglin, Qian Jiahua, Shen Han, Wang Yi and Wang Zhiyi. The exhibition spans time and space to show the breadth of abstract painting and expand the boundaries of abstract art.
We would like to thank Whitestone Gallery and The Columns Gallery for supporting this exhibition.
Press release courtesy Tang Contemporary Art.
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