Joint Exhibition - Wang Gongyi and Yan Shanchun

Galerie du Monde is pleased to announce a joint exhibition of work by Chinese artists Wang Gongyi (b. 1946, Tianjin) and Yan Shanchun (b. 1957, Hangzhou), taking place between 2 September and 5 October 2016. Wang Gongyi and Yan Shanchun have collaborated many times, but this will be the first duo exhibition of both artists in Hong Kong. Both interpret Chinese traditional landscape painting, taking nature as the inspiration for their contemporary forms. The exhibition will feature a selection of lithographs and etchings, as well as large-scale landscape paintings on paper by Wang Gongyi, while also featuring a series of ink paintings and copperplate etchings from Yan Shanchun’s West Lake series.


The gallery will showcase four brand new large-scale paintings on paper by Wang Gongyi, created especially for this exhibition, with one being almost four metres in length. The artist likes to sketch with a calligraphy brush, using soft goat-hair on fragile xuan paper to create lines of profound tension and beauty. For the last few years, she has begun reinterpreting Chinese landscape paintings, neither conforming to nor rejecting traditional style, but instead employing lines and strokes as well as shading, dots and washes as with other abstract forms.


The dots and repetitive patterns hark back to the artist’s time studying in France when she felt she truly discovered her own heritage. The artist describes a specific trance-like painting of dots she created in a studio there, thereafter developing a Zen-like routine of artistic practice, which sees her drawn to repetitive patterns such as dots. Her incredible perception gained in part by approaching similar themes again and again, as exemplified by her dot paintings, saw her master etching and lithography in these early years, in which techniques she has been self-taught. A selection of etching and lithographs will also be on display at the gallery.


Wang Gongyi is an artist of high renown in China, having being awarded the grand prize for her Qiu Jin series of woodcut prints at the ‘Second National Youth Art Exhibition’, one of the most influential awards in China, supported by many of the country’s top cultural institutions. At the time, it was relatively unheard of for this prize to have been awarded to a female artist.


Galerie du Monde will also showcase a number of paintings on paper and copperplate etchings from the West Lake series by Yan Shanchun, one of the first generation of artists to graduate in China when the academies reopened following the Cultural Revolution. The artist hails from Hangzhou, one of Southern China’s most beautiful regions and famous for West Lake, a freshwater lake in the region that has been a source of inspiration for artists and poets for hundreds of years, such as Bai Juyi, Su Shi, Xu Zhimo and Hu Shih. The artist is predominantly inspired by the lake’s rich cultural history combined with the memories of it that followed him while he was working outside of China.


Yan Shanchun is also interested in the tradition of the Chinese literati in China who cultivated their art in seclusion. Choosing to detach himself from the ambition of the contemporary art world, Yan embodies this time-past tradition. A trained traditional ink painter, the artist’s paintings focus on broader sections and perspectives of West Lake, using layer upon layer of pigment, combining this with faint hints of colour and spatial tension. More recently the artist has started to create copperplate etchings which depict or evoke more precise characteristics of the lake, using sulphur and olive oil to create recesses in the copper plate which in turn is printed on to Japanese ganpishi paper. The artist has described the West Lake as ‘clear, remote, tempered and classic’, and the silver-print photography effect of his etchings perfectly symbolises this.