World / Reporter's Journal

Having conquered HK, master of ink is returning to New York

By Chris Davis (China Daily USA) Updated: 2016-03-30 11:16

"The focus of my work is the profound consideration and the emotion of the ink," says Lan Zhenghui, one of China's leading contemporary artists.

His towering new installation Ink Monument has been on view at Art Central Hong Kong at the iconic Central Harbourfront. Commissioned by Art Central's selection committee, Lan Zhenghui's installation Ink Monument stands more than five meters high, with a colossal four-sided column of large-scale ink paintings on rice paper.

Lan said he created his new master-work to express the power of sadness and an epic awareness of tragedy.

 Having conquered HK, master of ink is returning to New York

Celebrated Chinese artist Lan Zhenghui is known for his large-scale use of ink, blending traditional Chinese technique with Western expressionism. Provided to China Daily

Lan, whose work is regularly exhibited at Ethan Cohen New York Gallery, is set to embark on a US tour later this year that includes a residency at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey, and university lectures in multiple US cities.

This is the second year that the Art Central selection committee has invited Lan Zhenghui for a major installation. At 2015's Hong Kong Art Week, Lan's installation titled Re-Think was a highlight of the Art Central fair and the entire installation was purchased.

Critics have applauded Lan for taking the freehand strokes of traditional Chinese painting to new, monumental levels by infusing them with the abstractions and expressiveness found in modern painting.

"What makes this new installation completely different for me is that I have been challenged by dimensions required by the selection committee and translating this into the necessary sense of space - to then construct a dignified phenomenon of transcending tragedy, representing the mortality we all face. I would have liked to reach higher to even greater heights," he said in a statement.

Lan says he draws his inspiration from the ink itself. By inhabiting the aesthetic confluence between traditional Chinese Ink painting and Western abstract expressionism, Lan tries to find ways of reinventing both.

As he puts it, he lets the ink flow and discover its own momentum through his bold, kinetic, strokes, liberating it from being defined by its form.

Having conquered HK, master of ink is returning to New York

"But the spirits of Chinese landscapes still linger like ghosts in the canvas," he said. "They haunt both the process - the brushstrokes, the vectoring - and the resulting shapes. Mountains, rivers, storms, even figures, surge and evaporate subliminally."

Born in Sichuan province in 1959, Lan graduated in 1987 from one of China's most prestigious art academies - the Sichuan Academy of Art, whose celebrated alumni include Zhang Xiaogang and Zhou Chunya.

Lan has focused his career working in contemporary ink painting and calligraphy, with a vision to find new ways of creating art via ink traditions.

Known for monumental, large-scale abstract ink paintings, Lan's work, as critics have noted, departs from Chinese ink traditions through his raw individualism, emotional expressiveness, and physicality. The result is bold, varying densities of ink application and the artist splashing ink directly onto the paper.

Most recently, Lan's work has been featured in the US in a traveling exhibition titled 28 Chinese, an exhibition of Chinese artists gathered by American collectors Don and Mera Rubell after 10 years of visiting artists' studios in China. The show was launched during Art Basel Miami Beach and has traveled to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Lan's work has been shown at the China National Art Museum in Beijing; at China's Guangdong Museum of Art; the Gallerie du Monde Hong Kong; The Third Biennial China-Italia in Turin, Italy; the Flemish Museum of Art Museum in Brussels; the Art Institute of Chicago; the International Art Expo in Taibei; the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai; at Art Dubai; SDMOMA, Shanghai; and the Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany.

His work appears in the public collections of the China National Art Museum in Beijing; the British Consulate at Guangzhou; the Chinese Cultural Centre of Toronto; and the Artron Group of China, among others. He is represented by Ethan Cohen New York and Canadian Fine Arts in Toronto.

The artist has been selected by some of the world's leading luxury brands for special projects, including Mercedes-Maybach and Volkswagen Phaeton.

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