What vast universe is stored within Taipei’s prismatic clouds?
After five years of anticipation, Tina Keng Gallery has once again joined with artist Jiang Dahai, French-based for the past three decades, to bring forth the solo exhibition Beyond the Clouds. The exhibitionshowcases the artist’s conceptual abstract paintings that are coherent with the spirit of Eastern literati – the figurative cloudscapes and the abstract universal rhythm merge and transform at the point where the visual perspective shifts from the near to afar, guiding the viewer to enter a dimension that transcends the visual field, to perceive illusionary and the constancy of the embodied poetics within the turns and flow of the enshrouding mists and clouds.
This alien experience originates in a certain sense of aporia presented by the amalgamation of Eastern and Western artistic concepts. The viewer seemingly becomes immersed in an ambiguous obscurity within the columns of clouds and meandering mists portrayed in the distance, unable to discern what is hidden or revealed, overt or implied. On closer detailed inspection, the strands of prismatic clouds deconstruct into near-abstract drops of spotted color. The gaze that temporarily rests on the painting is at times lost within the visual vertigo created by the splashed spots of color; at other times lost within the splendorous visualization of a vast universe. In confronting this work that is both experiential and transcendental, both abstract and poetic, the earmarks of reality tend toward the ambiguity. Cleverly concealed within are philosophies deeply embedded in the two extremes of Eastern and Western culture, guiding the viewer toward a unique aesthetical contemplation, while transforming the nebulous universe within the painting into a mirror reflecting the self.
Jiang Dahai once said, “I have made the transformation from realistic landscapes to a freehand style, then arrived bit-by-bit at modernism. The realm aspired to by the artistic essence of Chinese shanshui paintings also possesses this abstract spirit. It is even more obfuscated and murky, more of an uncertainty, more concerned with the spiritual significance of the imagery… Its grand majestic momentum or serene and equable conception: the intellection of shanshuibecomes one with the mystical sense and temperate sentiment, enabling viewers to feel as though they have become enveloped within and are able to grasp the entire universe!”
The debut of the new series Taipei’s Clouds pendulates perceptive readings of the work between the figurative and the abstract through the conceptual abstract depiction of illusive cloudscapes; as though concealed within the illusory mist and haze, emerging on the edge of the perceivable; moving in for closer inspection, the overlapping droplets of color dots transmute into infinite stars and galaxies, leading the viewer into a universe of consciousness swirled within clouds and mist. The somber nostalgia deeply imprinted on the artist’s soul is written in the ever-changing colorful clouds that are simultaneously familiar and strange to the inhabitants of Taipei. With his deep roots in Taipei, Jiang Dahai has unveiled his work in Taipei a number of times, including the large-scale retrospective The Westward Journey of Eastern Artat the National Museum of History. Taiwan has penetrated the core of transcendental consciousness in Jiang Dahai’s spiritual and emotional connections – just as the ephemeral light crystallized in the paintings, filled with the omnipresent diffusion of the misty vaporous clouds of Taipei’s skies.
Through the deep, full-bodied, densely laid colors in classical works such as the 場(Arena), 曦(Twilight), and 升騰(Ascent)series, the paintings overflow with an air of haze and mist and the unrestrained abandon of Eastern brush and ink painting. For those familiar with the Chinese traditional po molandscapes, these atmospheric scenes that push the perceptions toward a soulful sojourn hold an elements of allure similar to that of Hunan shanshui of the Five Dynasties period to the Southern and Northern Song era. In the work風雲(Gathering Storm),the bright flash of aurora across the deep night sky is woven and tinted with dots of color on close viewing, as though writing the points of starlight in the vast universe. The viewer transcends physical spatial dimensions and enters, drifting and unfettered, into the expansive void.
With one of the largest collections of Asian art in Europe, the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet in France invited Jiang Dahai to hold a special exhibition at the end of 2016. Curator Henry-Claude Cousseau gave this description: “These paintings might be taken for a minimalist variation. But appearances are deceptive. […]We are far from Pollock’s rhythmic, seismographic and lilting splatters, or his sinuous, thick rivulets of streaks – here is the polar opposite, with its translucent, suspended qualities. We are no longer looking at the possessive and sensual deployment of a brush rendered drunken, but at the grace of the fall of a droplet of water on dry earth, at the refinement of the rain falling on ba jiao leaves, whose delicate music Chinese scholars like to listen to at their windows.”
Clouds are a recurring theme in the works of Jiang Dahai, who has lived in France for thirty years. The finely dotted and layering of color creates an illusion of bewildering mist or vapor for the audience. Woven abstract pointillist dots of color construct the cloudy haze. These points of color are softened by their irregularity, and made alluring by their random occurrence. For viewers familiar with the traditions of Chinese shanshui painting, the atmospheric scenes expressed have an allure similar to that of Hunan shanshui of the Five Dynasties period to the Southern and Northern Song era. The appeal of first deconstructing and then reconstruction brushstrokes combines the themes of traditional painting with abstract theory, amalgamating the cultivation of Eastern aestheticism with Western color theory; the richly poetic abstract works reveal a reinterpretation of aesthetics and philosophy.
Jiang Dahai was born in Nanjing, China, in 1949. After studying and teaching at Department of Oil Painting in Central Academy of Fine Arts of Beijing in 1986, he moved to France to pursue further studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. He has held numerous solo exhibitions at museum institutions in China, and major exhibition in recent years include the Carte Blanche à Jiang Dahai at the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet in France in 2016, and theThe Westward Journey of Eastern Art: A Retrospective of Jiang Dahai at the National Museum of History in Taiwan in 2015.