gallery nine 5 is pleased to announce Empire Builder, the second solo exhibition of Washington D.C. based artist Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann, from May 5th – June 12th, 2016.
Inspired by aesthetics unique to Chinese cave murals, Mann emulates the colorful, enveloping Dunhuang Caves with her paintings. Just like a cave mural, Mann’s pieces thrive off patterns of natural chaos and contingency. She begins with a chance procedure of evaporated ink and water, and builds off of it to create her landscapes—much like wall murals are elaborated from the chance shape and texture of the natural stone. From these initial ink and water stains, her pieces seem to grow sensuously and limitlessly.
Walking through the exhibition, the viewer feels like they are entering a haven of both chaos and neurotic control, as Mann’s paintings use both soft waves and dramatic explosions of color to engage their audience. And just as a wall painting stands out unnaturally from its organic background, these paintings stand stark and impressive against the blank walls of the gallery. Their size and vibrancy create a true sense of landscape.
In particular, Tremble, Trample plays with the imagery of the Dunhuang Caves through its rounded panels—suggesting the welcoming or intimidating entrance to a cave—and vibrant images within. With this piece, Mann seems to directly address the visitor to immerse themselves beneath the deep blues and dynamic sweeps of the painting.
Another motif in Mann’s work is of layering and weaving. This includes the intertwining of multiple layers of paper within a painting, emulating both the literal weaving of silk and the metaphorical interlacing of trade routes on China’s Silk Road. Dunhuang III, for example, features a myriad shapes all weaved together to create a stunning composite landscape. Mann’s use of collage in her artwork harkens to the historical significance of Dunhuang in China—a cultural crossroad and apex of the Silk Road. Her clever integration of collage and motifs of weaving represents this massively influential contribution of Chinese history.
Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann received her Bachelor of Arts from Brown University and her Master of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She is the recipient of a Fulbright grant and is the Keyholder Fellow at the Lower East Side Printshop in New York. She has participated as an artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, the Djerassi Resident Arts Program in Woodside, CA, and the Triangle Workshop in New York, among others. She has been awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and a Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship. Mann is currently an instructor at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
The artist has shown extensively in the Washington-Baltimore area, New York, California, and internationally in Zurich, London, Taiwan, and Cameroon. Her work has been reviewed in many publications including the Washington Post, the Baltimore City Paper, and the Taipei Times.