5 September - 27 September 2014
Hanart TZ Gallery
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Hanart TZ Gallery is proud to present the solo exhibition, Painting with Qi by SHEN Aiqi, opening on 5 September till 27 September. The show is curated by Professor Pi Daojian, School of Fine Arts, South China Normal University.

Born in 1941 Hubei, Shen Aiqi has been engaged in the exploration of the painting process since his youth, and in the late 1950s was already a dedicated student of great Hubei master Xu Song’an. As the decades passed by he immersed himself in the study of the “six canons” of Chinese art, creating a unique body of work grounded on the training he received under his master’s tutelage, yet very uniquely his own. For many years, Shen Aiqi rarely showed his paintings to others: it was only after he celebrated his 70th birthday that he chose to share his work with the world in a solo exhibition at Yuhan. This has caused a true sensation in art circles and beyond. Shen Aiqi’s painting is majestic and vibrant, radiating a unique sense of life-force that is tangible to all who come into contact with it. Within his works are contained organic patterns of nature and energy. This is the kind of grandeur that can only arise when the artist merges with sky and earth, mountains and rivers, fusing his life-force with that of nature. For Shen Aiqi, the process of merging with nature and then expressing this oneness through his art is one of the greatest joys of painting.

In the 1980s, when the open-door political and economic reforms were first instituted in China, most people became obsessed with escaping the scarcity they had endured for so long and sought every means possible to improve their material well-being. By contrast, Aiqi’s concerns at this time were focused on the idea that ‘man and nature are as one’. He always held firm to this belief in the unity of man and nature. In the 1990s, Aiqi’s philosophical and artistic journey led him to a new understanding regarding the conceptualization of the cosmic creative source. Aiqi describes this conceptualization as tai 態: the unity of energy (nengliang能量) and the heart-mind (xin心). This concept of tai expresses Aiqi’s understanding of the world, of nature and the universe. To Aiqi, tai is the mother of the universe, the source of all things. Aiqi’s integration of this philosophical understanding into his daily life explains why the first act he performs in the painting process is to ‘harness qi’ (cai qi) When Aiqi paints, he first gathers into himself the qi, or energy, of nature, and then externalizes it through the dynamic forms of brushwork–dots, lines, ink rhythm, ink ‘breath’; through this visual externalization, he constructs a world.

Within this concept of breath-resonance is contained the idea that painting is infused with and animated by the same kind of life-force that animates humans, and indeed all living beings. Watching Aiqi paint, one might feel that his is a completely unrestrained, almost cathartic process, but in fact it is far more than this. For Aiqi, painting is a vital necessity of his inner, energetic life-force as well as of his daily life: it is the way he expresses his being-ness in the world. Yet at the same time, he also wants to use his art to shake people up—to awaken them–by giving them a kind of powerful visual shock. His painting at first glance seems abstract and formless, but in fact it has both pattern and form that extend beyond the painting surface itself. This pattern and form come into being through the artist’s complete energetic investment in the act of painting, through the rhythm and ‘breathing’ of the ink forms; and, ultimately, they manifest through in their emergence in our minds and hearts.

Aiqi’s working method infuses his paintings with a strong sense of performance, setting his art apart from that of his shanshui forbears. But this element of performance is also quite different from that of modern Western ‘action painting’. This is not only because Aiqi paints out in the open air, in the midst of nature. The key issue is that Aiqi’s paintings are the direct expression of his emotional and spiritual state in the moment;and by extension, they also channel, through the actions and methodology of the individual artist, the response of traditional Chinese culture in confrontation with the age of economic and technical globalization on the one hand and the existential state of modern Chinese society on the other. His works are materialisations of Chinese philosophical thought, of traditional views on nature, and on the relationship between man and the universe. In this sense, Shen Aiqi’s shanshui painting can be considered as a form of Chinese contemporary art.

Excerpted from Transmuting Qi into Form: The Modern Shanshui Art of Shen Aiqi, Pi Daojian

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