From Chinese Ink to Abstraction

Works by Lampo Leong, Binghui Yan, Yu Zhang, and Chongbin Zheng

Lampo Leong

November 20, 1999 – January 16, 2000

Opening on November 20, 1999, is an exhibition of abstract Chinese ink paintings. Two of the artists, Binghui Yan and Yu Zhang, live in Beijing, while Lampo Leong and Chongbin Zheng currently live in San Francisco. Members of the CCC are invited to a preview of the exhibition and reception for the artists on Friday, November 19, from 6 pm. to 8 pm. The CCC is grateful to Grants for the Arts of the San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund for partially funding this exhibition.

Abstract art, as we understand it in the context of twentieth century western art, is characterized by its emancipation from tradition and by freely developing shapes and designs, as well as its exclusion of representational content. In Chinese art, the concept of abstraction had existed for many centuries albeit disguised as “images of the mind” or xieyi. It is only in the recent two decades that the western notion of abstraction infiltrated the Chinese art vocabulary, and together with the onslaught of other western art forms on the native Chinese psyche, artists started scrambling to find ways to reinvigorate Chinese ink painting.

The four artists in this exhibition have chosen to retain the use of ink in their works. They are well versed in both western and Chinese styles and concepts. Lampo Leong and Binghui Yan are also accomplished calligraphers. Yu Zhang has published important treatises on the state of contemporary Chinese ink painting and Chongbin Zheng has exhibited mostly in the west. Though their styles differ from one another, a common denominator is the exploration of the many possibilities of combining ink technique with western art concepts. This is possible only after mastering the traditional Chinese ink medium and acquiring a solid understanding of western art. Their works are abstract and the results true dialogues between contemporary western and Chinese art, hence demystifying the notion that abstract art can exist and be sustained only in western art.

By using western art concepts as reference points, artists such as the four in the exhibition are faced with new possibilities that ink offers in a new realm where eastern and western traditions coexist. Abstract qualities are inherent in ink, especially in calligraphy; the artists in this exhibition have taken that abstraction further and created works that are truly images of the mind.