Tang Contemporary Art is proud to announce the opening of a major retrospective for Tan Ping, entitled Tan Ping: What Is Painting 1984-2021, held in both of the gallery's Beijing spaces at 4 p.m. on 15 May.
Curated by Cui Cancan, the exhibition will showcase more than one hundred drawings, oil paintings, prints, and videos, offering a complete overview of Tan Ping's creative career since 1984, as well as his most recent work from 2021.
Tan Ping: What Is Painting 1984-2021
As one of the leading figures in Chinese abstract art since the 1980s, Tan Ping has provided us with a rich and complex body of examples of how to reshape the grammar, structure, and experimental methods of a medium; in the process, his work has become an important reference in the Chinese contemporary painting scene.
In a painting career spanning nearly 40 years, Tan Ping has witnessed many waves of artistic ideas. In the early 1980s, he engaged with traditional academic realism and naturalism, but after 1984, he moved on to a formal interest in still lifes, landscapes, and figure paintings and the study of Surrealism and Expressionism. In the early 1990s, experiments with blocks of colour, line, black and white, spatial sequences, and other materials appeared in a series of prints and oil paintings that began Tan's visual exploration of abstract art. After 2000, his formal experiments shifted towards a broader range of painted actions, including calligraphy, scrawl, repetition, and layering.
After this point, abstract art was just a vehicle or a tool for Tan Ping. He drew freely from Minimalism, conceptual art, happenings, Fluxus, action painting, and site-specific art to play with the ideas of washing, grafting, and rebirth. From his studies of form, Tan moved toward a study of painting and the mechanisms, conditions, styles, and concepts that produced it. His painting moved from the two-dimensional toward the three-dimensional, toward action, toward the site-specific. He eventually returned to the origin of painting, to the essential and foundational grammar of painting, in an attempt to respond to the medium's simplest yet most difficult question: What is painting?
Is painting a point, a line, a plane, or a symphony of the three? Is it form or concept, process or result? Is painting the product of rationality, design, and modules, or is it inspired by perception, passion, and spirit? This series of questions informs his philosophy of painting, a set of diverse values and broad visions for painting after realism.
In the post-1980s context of globalised contemporary art and post-modernism, Tan Ping imbued painting with new meaning. Painting is no longer an extension of classicism or realism; it connects post-war contemporary art and different aspects of Eastern and Western culture. He broadens the discussion of abstract art into a form of artistic reflection. He has become more interested in the artistic definition of abstraction than its formal manifestation. Instead of a mode of abstraction that is neither simply realist nor representational, he examines an open, diverse, and heterogenous world of painting that cannot be defined or conceptualised.
Painting is the confluence of time, space, and an individual. Only one person has had these personal, present, and past experiences. However, with conviction and ambition that has lasted nearly 40 years, Tan Ping has created endless experiments that ask, 'What is painting?' and offered that to us as a shared experience.
Press release courtesy Tang Contemporary Art.
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