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WANG TIANDE

Wang Tiande is an artist who is trained in another conventional language: that of shuimo, literally water and ink, but perhaps more accurately ink and paper. The term shuimo, more than its translation, conjures the visceral experience of the materials of ink painting. Unlike many of his contemporaries, whose resolution of tensions between tradition, convention and contemporaneity often results in art works in other media, Wang has chosen to remain faithful to the centuries long praxis of imitation, mastery, and re-invention in ink painting, and so writes himself into that lineage. Yet this path has not been without its challenges. A product of one of the most important art academies in China, the Zhejiang Academy of Art (now known as the China Academy of Art), Wang has been inspired both by the past masters of his own studies, and by creating a new mode of communication in a contemporary and global environment. Experimentation in ink painting is a way of ensuring the survival of the medium but also, more profoundly, is a way of ensuring the survival of Chinese culture in society. By his own admission this has sometimes meant working very much in isolation.


Wang Tiande's continuing investigation into the limits and potential of ink painting has since taken him closer to the roots of his medium. In his Digital series Wang incorporates calligraphy into hanging and handscroll format landscapes. Calligraphy is revered in Chinese culture as the highest form of art, one that is dominated by the concept and meaning of the characters drawn, but also by formal convention, technique, and composition. The experience of reading these Digital works, as in his earlier Chinese Clothes and Fan series, is disquieting for their apparent familiarity. Their two-dimensionality lulls the viewer into anticipating what might be seen, but the works are both physically and conceptually multi-layered. Comprising three components: the landscape painting; a diaphanous layer of xuan paper featuring another competing landscape burnt through with a cigarette; and finally the two taken together as a single image. Not only does this give the effect of what Fan Di'an has termed a hallucinogenic cultural imagination (3) but makes material the ephemerality of cultural practice and our perceptions of nature as well as art. Wang aggressively controls the viewer's field of vision: the near distance is represented by the burnt-out layer of paper, whose traces and marks are as deliberate and irreversible as those of a brush loaded with ink and water, and through which the far distance permeates. This has the impact of creating a dizzying kind of double vision. Meanwhile, the far distance can only be glimpsed through the near distance, its clarity obscured through a haze of xuan paper. As ever, the calligraphic elements are abstract impositions that exaggerate the viewer's sense of weightlessness. (excerpt from article by Tina Pang, Curator, University Museum, Hong Kong)

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