The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture presents an exhibition of paintings by Lo Ch’ing, a Chinese poet-painter who creates art simultaneously rooted in tradition and expressive of contemporary sensibility. His paintings describe a path between the strong currents of his own short past, the millennia-old past of the Chinese empire, and the demands of today’s postindustrial, consumer-driven and individualist global citizen.
The exhibition, curated by University of Maryland professor Jason Kuo, comprises 30 artworks and represents the artist’s first show in the United States in ten years. Representing four decades of the artistic activity, the selection of works ranges from smaller, poetic compositions of the late 1960s to monumental, post-modern landscapes of 2015. Working in the millennia-old tradition of Chinese ink art, Lo’s paintings include familiar landscape forms of the genre, such as mountains, clouds and river scenes, but he updates this hallowed pictorial language with his own idiosyncratic vocabulary — one that includes an array of modern symbols like airplanes, icons, asphalt and skyscrapers — and aerial views impossible in ancient times.
Lo’s artistic effort to find a painting language within the tradition of ink art that can dexterously handle themes of modern living drives the choice of works in this exhibition. For an artist from Taiwan, where the past century has seen war, occupation, revolution and an economy move from an agrarian base to a globalized market in a matter of decades, the importance Lo places on not dislodging the historical is particularly poignant. His masterful brushwork and gestural nods to past Chinese masters are ever-present. Yet his breathtakingly original compositions in bold black ink and bright watercolors also pay homage to Magritte and pop art, to postmodern theory and to the Windows operating system. Lo presents the world we live in as one that is meant to be assembled, not deciphered. His love of semiotics gives a further nod to a textual reading of visual imagery. Just as we all use tabs on our computer screens to shrink or expand “views” as needed, so too do his monumental canvases give us the opportunity to hold multiple realities within one contingent moment.
All of these canvases present worlds within worlds, interiors both crowded and expansive, edges that intrude and help clarify. There is a large dose of introspectiveness throughout that celebrates the improvisational. Yet for all his delight in capturing the complexity of our modern world, Lo Ch’ing also offers simple canvasses of stars reflected in a pond, or trees growing on a hill. The originality of his vision makes for a captivating artistic experience.
Critically acclaimed both in Taiwan and China for his painting and his poetry, Lo Ch’ing’s works have been shown internationally at venues such as the Saatchi Art Gallery and the British Museum in London.
Lo Ch’ing was born in 1948 in Shandong Province, China, and his family moved to Taiwan in 1949. He showed promise as a painter from a young age and began formally studying Chinese ink painting as a young teenager, and he graduated from the English Department of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei in 1972 and earned an MA in comparative literature at the University of Washington, Seattle in 1974. Lo has had a prestigious literary and artistic career in Taiwan, beginning with his first collection of poems, Ways to Eat a Watermelon, which won a national poetry award in 1974. He has taught English and American literature at Furen University and Taiwan Normal University and has been editor of several literary art journals. He began to exhibit his art in 1980, and since then has had dozens of solo and group shows in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, the United States and Europe. He is a celebrated painter, poet and calligrapher, and is recognized as one of a handful of Chinese painters who have reinvigorated Chinese ink painting for contemporary audiences. He lives in Taiwan with his wife, an artist in her own right, and has two grown sons.
Jason C. Kuo is Professor of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland and has taught at the National Taiwan University, Williams College, and Yale University. His numerous publications include: The Austere Landscape: The Paintings of Hung-jen, Transforming Traditions in Modern Chinese Painting: Huang Pin-hung’s Late Work, and The Inner Landscape: The Paintings of Gao Xingjian. He edited the volumes Visual Culture in Shanghai, 1850s–1930s; Perspectives on Connoisseurship of Chinese Painting; and Stones from Other Mountains: Chinese Painting Studies in Postwar America.
Public programs will be announced.
Admission to the exhibition is free and open to the public.
The Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located in the Fine Arts Building. For more information call 410-455-3188.
Click here for directions and parking information.
Images, from top: Lo Ch’ing, Email@Landscape, 2015. Ink on paper, 70.5 x 38 in.; The morning sun of the Peach Blossom Spring, 2015. Ink on paper, 38 x 70.5 in. Both images courtesy of the artist.