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Posts Tagged ‘meditation art’

Chinese ink artist Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian shows 80 works in Spain – Guardian, Int Literary Quarterly

Posted by artradar on January 18, 2009


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CHINESE INK PAINTING

This exhibition references three trends we are noticing in the art world now: a new interest in ink as a medium, a turning towards the traditional arts as a counterpoint to the recent interest in political art then new media and finally, as Melissa Chiu of the Asia Society has pointed out in the video Inside Chinese Contemporary Art, the growing influence of cultural and political refugee artists on the art practices in their birth countries.

The Deluge to March 2009

Museo Wurth La Rioja presents the exhibition ‘After the Deluge’ which brings together 80 Chinese ink works on canvas and paper by the prestigious Chinese artist Gao Xingjian (China, 1940), 2000 Nobel Prize in Literature. Regarded as one of the most important Chinese writers at present, Gao Xingjian still is not well known as a painter in Spain, although he is recognized by the international art scene and his oeuvre was previously exhibited at the Reina Sofia Museum (Madrid, 2002) says Art Knowledge News.

His work has been presented in several solo and group exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States, and is included in several important art collections including the Singapore Art Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Modern Art Sweden.

Although Gao Xingjian is well-known for having received the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 2000, his long, versatile professional career reveals him to be a novelist, playwright and essayist, a film and stage director as well as an artist of great international renown according to the Museum. 

Literature and painting encounter serene complicity in the figure of the artist, in which the one is the inseparable complement to the other, one is an extension of the other: “I paint when I am tired of writing. I write when I am tired of painting”.

Gao’s paintings are in Chinese ink, sometimes on small sheets of rice paper, sometimes on large format canvases. The gouache technique, which comes from the traditional Chinese technique of xieyi (literally “painting of the feelings” or “writing of the spirit”), allows him to create subtle, intuitive settings and characters who move in the limits between  figurative and abstract art.

Gao uses Chinese ink with light, fluent strokes, full of contrasts which explore the expressive possibilities of black, creating nuances, light, chiaroscuros, textures and volumes which spring from the artist’s own introspection. Gao paints from the emotions and his forms suggest sensations (Search, Nostalgia, Illusion) subtle natural phenomena (Momentary Rain, The Mist) or the artist’s vision of the presence (Alienation, The End of the World, The Flight).

 

As a refugee of the Cultural Revolution now settled in France, Gao Xinjiang’s art practice is irrevocably marked by his experiences. The Guardian says

Though he enjoys dancing, swimming in the sea and cooking seafood, Gao says he works “non-stop, 12 hours a day”, and never takes summer holidays “or even weekends, because freedom of expression is so precious to me”.

 

Though the Open Door policy operating since the eighties which allows new freedoms to Chinese people, has also brought with it difficulties

The market pressures China now shares with the west are, (Gao) believes, “harder to resist than political and social customs”. He feels lucky that his ink paintings were selling in Europe before he fled, and have been widely exhibited. “I could make a living, so I could write books that didn’t sell much. I always understood that literature can’t be a trade; it’s a choice.” Painting, he says, “begins where language fails”, and he works listening to music – often Bach.

Gao describes his experience of political control being all the harder to bear after his idyllic upbringing in the  intellectually-stimulating open-minded environment created by his parents.

Many people would remember their childhood as a painful, suffering memory. I am extremely lucky in comparison. My mother was educated in an American missionary school so she was very open-minded, and my father had been very much influenced by Western thoughts and ideals. At the same time he was learned in classical Chinese culture. In my family there was no sense of hierarchy, there was no patriarchal control of any kind. I was totally free, I could do whatever I liked, and I was also good at my studies so my parents did not try to influence me whatsoever, in any way. I was completely myself. The first ever sense of control or manipulation or power put upon me was when I first went to University; it was 1957. We had the anti-writers movements, a political campaign against writers and artists. That was the very first time I experienced opposition or some form of control over me.

Since my university years, I have been subject to all kind of politics, all kinds of political control and manipulation, and I very much want to separate myself from that, and I am now advocating or promoting art and literature which is apolitical, which is not used as a tool in politics, it actually transcends and goes beyond and is above politics, it has nothing to do with politics. That is the kind of art and literature I want to promote. So all those political discourses and political language, they are public, they are there to command. Political discourse is the discourse of power, and it is also a public discourse, it doesn’t represent an individual.

His paintings have been described as “infused with the still, reflective quality of Zen Buddhism” and it is in the spirit of xeiyi and the expression of universal feelings that we are to understand the works in this show.

See sources

Gao Xingjiang’s book Return to Painting presents a collection of more than one hundred of the author’s paintings, created from India ink on rice paper, that span his artistic career from the 1960s to the present day.

More stories on ink, Chinese artists, museum shows, events on now, art as meditation, political art, cultural revolution

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Buddhist motifs, artist collectives in Tibetan art – Asia Art Archive

Posted by artradar on October 24, 2008


BUDDHISM, COLLECTIVES CONTEMPORARY ART TIBET OVERVIEW

The last couple of decades have seen an explosion of international interest in Tibetan contemporary art writes Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, assistant Professor of the University of Alabama in a column for Asia Art Archive.

A common theme of this art is religious iconography – including celestial beings, Buddhas, and ritual implements – being adapted to portray  ideas of identity, cultural preservation, globalization, and tensions with the perceived colonizers – the Chinese immigrants that represent the control of the Chinese state.

The various collectives of Tibetan artists that exist both within the PRC and also abroad in exile have distinct philosophies regarding their art. However, all of them include artists who consciously use Buddhist themes and iconography to convey very different concepts of identity, cultural preservation and globalization.

Interestingly, some contemporary artists originally studied under a traditional Tibetan system of artisan apprenticeship (for example, Karma Phunstok) before becoming a ‘contemporary artist’, while others have chosen to do so as a means of developing their contemporary practice (for example, Gonkar Gyatso).

Certainly, many contemporary artists do not associate their work with Buddhism; some resist associations explicitly to avoid stereotypes of the Shangri-La image of Tibet, whereas others such as the prominent artist Gade (b. Lhasa, 1971) use Buddhist images in a playful way to explore contemporary issues in Tibet.

Others consciously identify their motivation in undertaking particular pieces as being connected to their Buddhist faith and practice. The artists mentioned below are individuals who use Buddhist terminology in describing their art, and cite their motivations as being similar to traditional artisans – as a form of meditation, or an offering.

Artist statements often deflect attempts to politicize their work through the incorporation of traditional forms of vocabulary. Despite growing up during the Cultural Revolution when religious was suppressed many artists strongly self-identify as Buddhist and depict this identity in their work.

Several different artistic collectives reflect some of the different motivations of contemporary Tibetan artists.

Sweet Tea House

Sweet Tea originally started in Lhasa in the late 1980s with the intention of portraying and exploring contemporary Tibetan life through art, though was short lived due to government interference. However, one of its members, Gonkar Gyatso (b. Lhasa, 1961) revived the name in 2003 when he opened a gallery in London.

Gongkar Gyatso portrays some of the ambivalence felt among Tibetan artists about the connection of Tibetan identity with Buddhism. In an interview, he discussed how in traditional Tibetan art as well as in Maoist ideology the ‘assertion of individualism … [is] outlawed.’ Gyatso’s incorporation in his work of Buddhist motifs and the body of the Buddha, in particular, is used as a signifer of Tibetan identity, as well as commenting on contemporary images and political images surrounding Tibet.

Disney Plus 3 (2004), for example, includes an image of the Buddha along with images of Mickey Mouse. Both of these images are instantly recognizable as cultural markers, but the depiction of them together subverts expectations of their traditional uses.

Gedun Choephel Artists’ Guild

The Gedun Choephel Artists’ Guild is based in Lhasa, and artists from the group often collaborate and exhibit in Gyatso’s Sweet Tea House gallery. One of its most prominent members, Gade, like Gyatso, has grown up without a traditional Buddhist education. His work is a commentary on contemporary Tibetan issues yet often incorporates traditional motifs. Railway Train (2006) is an example of a piece that depicts this contrast which includes images of traditional Tibet, such as monks and nomads, alongside Coca-cola signs and the train that dominates the landscape,

Mechak

Mechak is a more recently formed initiative that encompasses other collectives through the use of the internet and by including artists from within the PRC as well as those in exile. The term ‘Mechak’ itself conveys the ideas of the group: me (me) meaning fire and chak (lcags) meaning iron refers to a traditional Tibetan iron-edged tool used for creating sparks. Mechak states that its mission is to ‘ignite a renewal of Tibetan culture’ through the inclusion of Tibetan artists from around the world. One of the group’s intentions is to explore new forms of expression while maintaining ‘a spiritual centre’. Indeed, many of the artists involved, including one of the founders, Losang Gyatso, use Buddhist imagery and themes.

Ang Sang (b. Lhasa, 1962) is one artist who incorporates traditional themes, particularly Buddhist ones, in his art for example in ‘White Tara’, a modern image of the goddess Tara. In his artist statement Ang declares that, ‘Painting to Ang Sang is the Buddha Nature in his heart; his works express faith and devotion. Through the exploration of the artistic language of Tibetan spirituality, he tries to find common characteristics between ancient and traditional Tibetan art and Western avant-garde art.’

Other young artists also incorporate Buddhist themes in their work, although their subject matter may not appear as explicitly to be Buddhist.

Palden Weinreb (b. 1982, ) born in and still living in New York City was educated in a western artistic tradition. His work incorporates mixed media and also refers to Buddhism. In his artist statement, he describes how, frustrated on one occasion, he began to recite mantra (symbols recited as a form of spiritual practice), reached a meditative state and found his pencil moving of its own accord. Fascinated by the results, Palden continued to use this method, explaining that through doing so, ‘I discovered a new sensibility in approach and aesthetics. I possessed a new appreciation for the illusion and deception held within a mark, creating ambiguous passages and environments … There was a beauty and a depth in the relation between systematic and unconscious patterns.’

Tibetan artists incorporate Buddhist motifs in their work for different reasons. Some reflexively use them as signifiers of ‘Tibetan-ness’; others as social or political commentaries. However, some artists have also consciously used them in a manner similar to traditional artists: as a form of spiritual practice.

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