Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Chinese Artist Who Forged Links Between Eastern and Western Painting Traditions

Whilst in Hong Kong, we visited the Hong Kong Museum of Art and were fortunate to catch an exhibition of the work of Wu Guanzhong. 

Born in Yixing, Jiangsu in 1919 this Chinese master studied in France on a scholarship in 1946.  On his return in 1950, he taught at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1991 he was honoured by the French Ministry of Culture with the Officier dans l'ordre des Artes et des Lettres, followed in 1992 by the exhibition "Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth-century Chinese Painter"; the first solo show for a living Chinese artist presented by the British Museum. In 1993 , he received a gold medal from the city of Paris to coincide with the exhibition "Encres Recentes de Wu Guanzhong" (Recent Ink Paintings of Wu Guanzhong), which was organsied by the Musee Cernuschi, Paris.  In China, he was selected delegate to the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of the People's Republic of China in 1994 and was honoured with a solos exhibition held by the Ministry of Culture in 1999.  In 2002, Wu became the first Chines national to be named Correspondant by the academie des Beaux-Arts de L'Institute de France.  In 2006, the Beijing Palace Museum ran a feature exhibition to honour his work and mark its first collection of a living artist's works, including the masterpiece Yangzi River donated by Wu in 1974.  That same year, Wu was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts by The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Notes taken from :
Lofty Integrity: Donation of Works by Wu Guanzhong  ISBN 978-962-215-220-5

Reading the above I realised that Wu's show at the British Museum was when I was a mature student at Farnham, I am sorry now that I was unaware of it at the time and I will try and trace a copy of the catalogue for that show. 

The exhibition was beautifully presented, the important paintings were grouped together to enable the viewer to assess them in context of subject and the time in which they were made, showing relationships and developments of theme and technique during his lifetime. Another aspect of the hanging of the show was that all the works were given lots of space and this added to it's impact.  I felt priviledged to have seen it.  Although the paintings were framed with glass, they were then placed inside huge glass cabinets to protect them and this sometimes made it difficult to see them without reflections although the clever lighting did keep this to a minmum.  I recognised the rhythms, sturcture and movement seen in a Pollock painting and other Abstract Impressionists' work, within Wu's work as well as elements that reminded me of Hockney's close observation of nature that I saw recently at the Royal Academy.

Photos taken with permission of gallery staff of Hong Kong Museum of Art.

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