Modern, traditional artist gets highlighted

Updated: 2013-09-06 11:39

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

An exhibition of large-scale ink paintings on rice paper by contemporary Chinese artist Wu Tianyu opened Saturday at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in California, the first exhibition in North America for the artist.

"I think this exhibition is special because many times contemporary artists reject the traditional methods of creation, but Wu manages to stay in conversation with the past and still move beyond it," Heidi LaGrasta, executive director of the museum at the Novato Arts Center in Novato, told China Daily. "This is the first time we have been able to show the work of a well-established Chinese artist."

The exhibition runs from Aug 31 to Oct 6. It is part of the museum's participation in Asian Contemporary Art Week, a collaborative event from the Asian Contemporary Arts Consortium that celebrates and promotes Asian contemporary arts and design practices throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from Sept 19-25.

Wu's exhibition had its origin in an inquiry made by his son, Wu Fei, who works nearby and saw the opportunity to create collaboration between the museum and his father.

The exhibition - entitled Bird & Flower: Poetic Paintings - includes 18 works created by Wu within the last five years and all were flown in from China. Four of the works are scrolls; the rest are framed ink paintings.

The underlying theme in Wu's work is thoughtful meditation. He uses elements of traditional Chinese painting and applies a contemporary approach to composition that allows the work to become more abstract and rhythmic.

"Standing in front of the work, it is plain to see the artist works quickly to create the loose style he employs, but each stroke reveals a calm and practiced intentionality," said LaGrasta. "In a sense, we can think of the works as poems rather than stories."

The exhibition was organized without the artist present. Museum staffers met Wu for the first time when he arrived to install his work.

MarinMOCA is a non-profit museum, and it relied on volunteers and staff to put on this exhibition, which has no external sponsor, but Wu himself gave the museum a contribution.

LaGrasta said contemporary Chinese artists are making a strong impact in the art world internationally, and that there is definitely a market for their work in the US.

"Art collection worldwide has been greatly affected by the onset of the digital age, and collectors often find artists they love many thousands of miles from their homes," she said. "Artists such as Wu Tianyu who imbed Chinese techniques and traditions in their work bring a cultural richness to their work that I think many American art collectors will respond to favorably."

"We as global citizens all face issues regarding culture jamming, growing industrialization, consumerism, and our struggle to find our own sense of belonging within a greater society," LaGrasta said.

"I foresee that in the coming decades the interchange between our countries will continue to become bigger and stronger, especially through online portals," LaGrasta said. "It is exciting to see the cross-pollination of ideas between the two countries."

(China Daily USA 09/06/2013 page11)