Galerie du Monde is pleased to announce Memories of West Lake, the first ever solo exhibition in Hong Kong by established Chinese female artist Wang Gongyi (b. 1946, Tianjin, China) from 3 November to 14 December 2017. Showcasing 11 paintings created from 2013 onwards, the works seek to reinterpret the traditional Chinese landscape, each taking nature as the inspiration for their contemporary forms. These works recount Wang’s memories of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China, a place that continues to deeply resonate with her.
The exhibition introduces Wang Gongyi’s tenacious affinity for natural elements as a central inspiration for her practice. Alluding to traditional Chinese landscape paintings and the abstract visual language that has been inherently part of modern art in the last three decades, Wang’s works are characterized by a sublime knowledge of compositional balance and sensitivity towards the nuances of tone and color, which has been attributed to her extensive academic training in China and abroad. Wang Gongyi’s visual language also speaks to the principles of Buddhism, a balanced simplicity with hidden depths that has long been an inspiration for her life and work.
The most iconic work in the exhibition is Peach Blossom, a multi-paneled work on Xuan paper, which extends over two meters tall and eight meters long. Despite limiting her main color palette to red, Wang was able to meticulously and vividly paint various tones of the striking hue across all 18 fragments of the painting. With an impressionistic wash effect to portray the variations of red found in a peach blossom, Wang sensitively evokes sentiments of passion, love and life. The red blotches resemble blood cells meandering through the capillaries, ostensibly representing a beautiful naissance of life upon the dawn of spring. The tree trunks attempting to penetrate through the domination of red blossoms symbolize the dynamic forces on a pictorial form. The fragmentation of this painting disrupts the congruous pictorial style of traditional Chinese ink painting, and presents multifaceted narratives as well as emphasizing the spatial relationship between the artist and this chosen scenery.
Another mono-color work is from the Windsor Blue series, painted between 2013 and 2016. Wang Gongyi has always maintained her connection with Buddhism and it was her familiarity with this philosophy and her expedition with abstract art that made possible the sensitive, strong, harmonious, yet naturally flowing character of Wang’s work. In this series, Wang has broken down the conventional forms of traditional landscape paintings, blurring the values within the system of contrasts with astonishing variations in tonality to depict the intrinsically complex essence of nature. In these mono-color works, her forthright employment of various densities of blues portray earthy elements meandering along the gorges, the valleys and the streams, while the fine balance between the softened forms and emptiness engenders a sense of space.
Painted between 2016 and 2017, one salient feature of the Lotus Diary series is its raw power of gestural strokes juxtaposing with the style of the other paintings in the show. Using charcoal to imbue strength in her marks, made against a background of ink, watercolor and acrylic, Wang brings new life to these recollections of natural landscapes. The lotuses are characterized by an agitated and an unrestrained energy that defies our idealized memories of nature as a soft and subdued realm. The surface is swathed with rhythmic black lines intersecting with the lotuses, which transforms the chaotic scene into a statement of the multifaceted aspects of nature. This aesthetic departure indicates how Wang Gongyi capitalizes on the dualities of softness and wildness of nature based on her observations of the West Lake in Hangzhou.
The Hong Kong presentation follows on from the recent showing of these works as part of Records of the West Lake, a joint exhibition with fellow contemporary Chinese artist Yan Shanchun held at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou earlier this year.