PIFO Gallery is delighted to present the exhibition ENCOUNTERS: John McLeanWang Jian. This show marks the beginning of ENCOUNTERS, a new and ongoing series of exhibitions bringing together artists from Asia and the West. ENCOUNTERS will put its focus on abstraction in painting and explore the communalities and divergences of notions of painting by juxtaposing accomplished artists.
John McLean is one of Europe`s most influential abstract painters whose work remains to receive the attention it deserves. At the core of McLean´s practice is paint, colour and shape. Influenced by American abstract expressionist painters, his work breathes Joan Miró’s innocent, unworldly quality and is free from incisive anxiety, instead featuring a touch of mysteriousness and reservedness which can also be found in Paul Klee. There is no trace of the deadly, religious atmosphere often found in abstract expressionist works. However one can clearly sense an inclusively humanistic spirit in McLeans works, that he shares with Pablo Picasso without succumbing to his tendencies towards indulgence and addiction. John McLean has refined his painterly vocabulary to its purest form.
Wang Jian, a post-70s abstract artist, grew up during China’s reform period. His work has commanded considerable attention in recent years. Since he switched to abstract art around in 2007, his practice has been profoundly reflecting on individual transformation. His works are both, experimentation in an abstract pictorial language and a very intense and subtle psychological (self)investigation. Very often dominated by an “X-shaped” configuration, the picture planes of his works become membranes reverberating the anxieties of life in a condensed pictorial notation. Wang Jian´s wide-ranging abstract vocabulary has today reached its finest charismatic and dynamic manner.
Although the artistic language and spiritual propositions of the two artists’ abstract paintings are largely different from each other, their works manifestly exhibit each their own psychological realities and also exquisitely touch upon a kind of genuine “trait of the times”. There is hope that the restlessness of society may diminish bit by bit and the prevailing pressures of being “on“ at all times may wane. In other words, John McLean’s elegance and affectionateness imply a newly found authenticity of a post-existentialist European art world. Meanwhile behind the intense and obscure vocabulary of Wang Jian’s abstract paintings, there is a hint of the anxieties prevalent among many of the post-1970 artists who are becoming more and more mature now.
The exhibition demonstrates that today, painting as a form of art is no longer a carrier of “avant-garde” or “contemporary” concepts. The regard for “beauty of form” has been eventually transformed into complex and intense psychological experimentation in painting. To explore and appreciate the spirituality of individuals as well as the “trait of the times“ in a rather concise visual form, is what both artists, John McLean´s and Wang Jian’s, abstract paintings share. This is the essentially distinctive proposition of this Encounter.
British, b. 1939 in Liverpool to Scottish parents. He lives and works in London. McLean studied at St Andrews University from 1957 to 1962 and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London from 1963 to 1966. McLean taught at various art schools in London from 1966 and had his first solo exhibition in 1975. He lived in New York in the late 1980s. McLean’s work can be found in many public collections, including Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and CAFA Art Museum in China.
Chinese, b. 1972, Handan, Hebei Province. In 2003, he completed the Plastic Arts Studio course at the Chinese Painting Department, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). He lives and works in Beijing. As a young adult Wang Jian worked as a train driver while following a period of self-directed study – reading extensively on literature, art, history and Zen. In 1996 he moved to Beijing to pursue his art career. He has worked as an editor, TV director, art director and designer and completed his studies at the influential China Central Academy of Fine Art in 2003. His work, both abstract and minimal, refers his early exploration of Eastern philosophies and demonstrates in its maturity and sophistication, his growing interests in Western poetry and sociology.
ENCOUNTERS is a new and ongoing series of exhibitions bringing together artists from Asia and the West. ENCOUNTERS will put its focus on abstraction in painting and explore the communalities and divergences of notions of painting by juxtaposing accomplished artists.
ENCOUNTERS takes its cue from a term originally coined by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychologist. In the 1960s Will Schutz at Harvard would further develop “Encounter” as “a method of human interaction based on openness and honesty, self-esteem and (self) responsibility”.
PIFO gallery takes this approach beyond its therapeutic origins and explores such notions in artistic practice in Contemporary Art in Asia and the West from a Chinese vantage point with the goal to explore artistic undercurrents and synchronicities that resonate within the paintings of artist from different regions of the world.
From its onset, abstraction in art was devised as an international humanistic language – an approach that today is being carried forward chiefly by some of the best artists in China. It is the goal of PIFO gallery to forge meaningful connections between them and their Western peers.