Painter going against the grain of conventional art

Artist He Sen is going against the grain to perfect his art with his new solo exhibition “Journey to the East,” currently underway at Longmen Art Project.

Artist He Sen is going against the grain to perfect his art with his new solo exhibition “Journey to the East,” currently running at Longmen Art Project.

The 48-year-old painter conjures up his impressions of traditional landscape on canvas and divides them into three parallel scrolls featuring different colors under different time and space.

He rose to early fame in 1999 with a series of paintings of young women smoking cigarettes or playing with toys. But the Yunnan-native painter later surprised the art scene by shifting his focus to traditional ink-wash painting.

It’s hard to believe that in 1989, when he graduated from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, He was a firm believer in Western culture. Back then he thought traditional Chinese culture was “nothing more than tales of ancient artists and a few antiques.”

His interest in ink-wash painting evolved in 2002, when he visited a classical Suzhou garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“All of a sudden I felt that everything I had learned about Western art was not worth mentioning any more,” He says. “I never felt so genuinely shocked. I was fascinated with the idea of using the techniques and skills I learned in school to recreate the ink-wash paintings that our culture has passed on to us. Today when my paintings are deemed ‘very traditional and very Chinese,’ they really only refer to the outer shell. Despite the same patterns, my way of composing and constructing a painting is actually the polar opposite of how the original masters worked.”

The highlight of He’s exhibition is his recent renderings featuring one big work plus a small piece. The small piece is actually a part of the big tableau, yet painted with a different technique and style. He uses thick layers of oil with a spatula in the small piece to make the work appear three-dimensional.

“His study on Western classical works and Chinese classical works has reinvigorated his works,” commented Eleonora Battiston, a renowned Italian art curator and critic.

Exhibition details

Date: Through December 31, 10am-6pm

Address: Suite 102, Tian’an Center Building, 338 Nanjing Rd W.

Ti Gong
Ti Gong
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