“Songs of Peony”, “Haze” and “Scholar Stone”, reflect different facets of her life during the past year. Ann Niu specializes in creating highly personal, often spiritual, narratives, but narratives in which the viewer can also feel at home. “Studio Life” portrays aspects of failure but also hope, creativity and inspiration and projects all of these elements into a place of dreams and realization. To illustrate this atmosphere, Ann Niu has compiled in a short video (11 minutes) showing views of her studio and details of her paintings. In the video Ann Niu offers a rare glimpse of her inner world whether from almost abstract compositions to gentle strokes evoking silhouettes, or from the slow preparation of ink on an ancient stone to the finished calligraphic lines on rice paper. When asked about “Songs of Peony”, Ann Niu replied with an enigma: “Your eyes seem to catch everything but your heart can only catch what you feel.”
During the days Ann Niu started her series “Haze”, hazy weather affected her vision. Besides dust and fog there was nothing. The air was stagnant and it seemed that a deep breath, or even a shallow one, would make one suffocate. In this environment, she felt as if her imagination was being invaded with a myth-like omen of doomsday.
In the ink series “Scholar Stones”, Ann Niu explores the theme in either subtle or vivid colors, with graceful and fluid strokes, delicate drawings and whispering poetry. Traditionally representing a focus for meditation or philosophic principles, the scholar stones were also known as a point of contemplation prior to painting or writing. Each painting reveals a poem sometimes entwined within the forceful shape of a stone, yet distinct and readable. Ann Niu drew her poetic reference from two pioneering modern poets: Hai Zi and Gu Cheng - well known for their post Cultural Revolution poetry.
Ann Niu has studied calligraphy and brush painting since childhood. Her paintings reflect her personal feelings, as well as the influence of diverse cultures and artistic forms that shaped her development while living abroad. Her artistic spirit was first nurtured by Chinese traditions and calligraphy then by Japanese aesthetics both allowing her to unleash her emotions on both canvas and rice paper. The comments by noted Chinese art critic, Zhu Guoreng, at the time of Ann Niu’s exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum in 2010, are relevant for this current exhibition: "What leaves the deepest impression on me is the lines. Lively, curvy, long or short, these lines create form while at the same time shattering it. They belong simultaneously to the representational and to the calligraphic. This free-spirited play of the brush succeeds in sweeping away rigid notions about the boundaries between painting and calligraphy. At root, there is an unbreakable connection between her technique and traditional Chinese art.”