Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Chinese Ink Brush Painter Lan Zhenghui To Speak In Miami

Several years before I began interviewing local artists for Ennyman's Territory I primarily connected with national and international artists via Twitter. By this means I discovered a vast world of creative people here, there and everywhere. By means of social media the world became increasingly small as it became possible to so easily reach out and touch the most distant neighbors.

Thursday morning Chinese artist Lan Zhenghui will be presenting a lecture at the Florida International University Department of Art + Art History at The College of Architecture + the Arts. He has come to the United States for a pair of lectures in Maryland (next week, on April 12th at 4 pm at the Maryland Institute College of Art) and Miami, to be followed by a six month residency in New York. Tomorrow's lecture is slated for 10:00 a.m. April 7.

His recent master-work "Ink Monument," on display during Hong Kong Art Week 2016 in March, was described as "electrifying." Zhenghui has come to international attention as one of China's leading contemporary artists.

I had the good fortune of being able to reach out to Mr. Zhenghui in advance of tomorrow's lecture. This post also includes examples of his work. We look forward to seeing how his time in the U.S. influences his future work and vision.

EN: When did you move away from working in color to focus on these more massive black and white works?
Lan Zhenghui: I started ink painting systematically in Guangzhou in 1993. At that time I treated ink painting as sketching, usually painting with ink for 2 months before painting with color for a few months. I kept this way of painting about 7-8 years, and tried to find my own path. In 2001, an important conference on Chinese ink painting, a summary on experimental ink painting, was held in Guangzhou. There I met Mr. Liu Xiaochun, one of the most authoritative critics in China and we talked about the possibility for a new ink painting when it comes to end for experimental ink painting, Mr. Liu became my mentor after that. He reviewed one of my paintings created with broad brush and asked whether it could go further to pursue extreme impact. Since then, I have stepped into the exploration of heavy ink art based on the research I had done on abstract structure. The size of my works kept increasing after the tools and materials were gradually improved. The blocks and clumps are used to express my feelings and cognition of the world.

EN: What is the nature of the material surface you are working on?
LZ: I grew up in Chinese culture, and the reason to choose rice paper is that it has a good visual impact of water invasion, brush mark & Sfumato can be shown on it, which is different from Western material. The changes made by ink on rice paper can be mentioned in the same breath with Western black and white sketch. Both ink and sketch are looking for a change to create shape, texture and space through black, white and grey. The natural dip-dye effect on rice paper makes abundant texture change, which leads to association of various scenes and interesting imagination.

EN: How did you come to choose art as a career? 
LZ: To choose art as a career is implemented step by step. As a teenager, I went to college to study engineering, which laid a foundation for my rational thinking and decision making. When I was 20 years old, by pure chance I was struck by the color combinations of a few small labels, and then decided to switch the direction to art. A few years later, luckily I was accepted by the famous Sichuan fine arts institute. My alumni includes Zhang Xiaogang, Zhou Chunya, etc. At that time the acceptance rate was very low. Enrolling in the academy of fine arts does not guarantee that you can become a professional artist. At university my interest was on the basic form and aesthetic feeling. I went to ChongQing University as a teacher after graduation, and then worked in different fields afterwards, which enabled me to earn the first pot of gold, and not worry about making a living. By the end of the 90s, with all aspects of the conditions ready, I was a professional artist. Since then I've been building my heavy ink system with a lot of effort. The favorable situation for my art wasn't really opened up until my solo exhibition was held at The National Art museum of China in 2006.

EN: Who have been your chief influences?
LZ: Besides independent thinking of my own, I fell under the influences of the Chinese and foreign masters from past and present. From the traditional side, Liang Kai in Song Dynasty and his Immortal in Splashed Ink had a great impact on me. The strong reduction ability for shape and temperament can be found in Chinese ancient splashed ink painting. Which is a major feature of China ink, the same impression on the works of Japanese artist Kakejiku and Master of Ming Dynasty - Xuwei’s big free-style painting had big influence on me. As well as Chinese constitutes modern artist Zhang Daqian, from the fine lines at his early age, to the splashed color through his later years. The Western theory and practice -- such as the German Bauhaus and several Western constitution theory, German & American Abstract Expressionism also constitutes influence on me. I love the structure consciousness of Franz Klein and the ultimate aesthetic of Willem de Kooning. There is profound talent and value in their works. Moreover, influences from a variety of art genres such as Color-Field Painting. Wonderful Design is also my concern. For example, I collect all kinds of brand advertising bags, shopping bags, company bags, as I know I have the biggest collection of this kind of bags in the world. I put all of these influences together, and turn them into something of my own, which constitute my style today.

EN: Impressive Thank you for this privilege of sharing your work and your self here.


"Wild Heart"
The lecture is at 10:00 a.m.  Be sure to take in the other current exhibitions at the Frost while you are there.

EdNote: See more of Zhenghui's body of work here

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