13 March 2018 – Tina Keng Gallery, a leading gallery dedicated to promoting works by Asian classical masters, is delighted to present Sanyu’s Hidden Blossoms: Through the Eyes of a Dandy, opening on March 24.
Comprising of around forty works of the Chinese modern master, this exhibition will focus on Sanyu’s work that were created between the 1930s and 1940s, with a selection of the last work of his. Formerly known as Lin & Keng Gallery, the Taipei-based Tina Keng Gallery was established in 1992 and began its long representation of the artist with Sanyu–Yun Gee Joint Exhibition: The Nostalgia of Two Wanderersin 1993, one year after opening. Solely curated by its founder, Tina Keng, the gallery subsequently held six other solo exhibitions of Sanyu over last 25 years in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2010, and 2013. Organised by young curator Hsu Fong-Ray, Sanyu’s Hidden Blossoms: Through the Eyes of a Dandyis the gallery’s latest undertaking to celebrate the legacy of Sanyu.
“I took my first visit to Paris about thirty years ago. This is when I first discovered Sanyu’s work, I was instantly taken by his hand and style. Through curating the past six exhibitions at our gallery, I have come to appreciate the interrelationship between Eastern and Western painting and concepts that are infused in his work. As one of the oldest members in the Taiwanese art community, we are dedicated to nurture and support the new generation of artistic and curatorial talents. For this exhibition, it is particularly exciting to work with the talented curator Hsu Fong-Ray, who has the ability to relate contemporary aesthetics in the work of Sanyu that transcend generations.” Tina Keng, founder of the gallery commented.
Sanyu’s Hidden Blossomschronicles from the artist’s nascent beginnings at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where he honed his painting skills, to the very last painting he produced before he passed away in 1966. Evoking the Parisian milieu where artistic greats gathered, the exhibition consists of precious works on paper that came into being at la Grande Chaumière, as well as a constellation of oil works between the 1930s and 1940s from what is known as the ‘Pink Period’, characterized by a palette of white, black, and pink. In addition to the sgraffito technique he used to outline his subject, this particular body of work attests to Sanyu's dexterous application of feibai, a drybrush technique in Chinese calligraphy that spares out the white ground in streaks, to create varying layers in the seemingly monotone background. Also on view is a series of drawings of the female nude that once struck famed Chinese poet Xu Zhimo as having “cosmic thighs,” and exquisite works loaned from the Fubon Art Foundation that make their appearance for the first time in twenty years.
Sanyu moved to Paris in 1920s when France was regarded as the center of the Années folles (“crazy years” in French) — a period of liberation, creativity, and cultural flourishing in the years following the First World War. “The artists who drifted toward Paris at the turn of the 20thcentury immersed themselves in the crowd and led a modern life. They were the so-called “dandies” in this golden era, who much like a mirror, reflect the diversity of the times, the city, and the people. Spearheading Chinese modern art, these artists navigated the treacherous global currents in search of ways that linked tradition and modernity, with a keen self-awareness as they engaged in the practice of cultural interpretation. Standing at the forefront was Sanyu.” Hsu Fong-Ray, exhibition curator explained.
From Sanyu’s experimentation with techniques to his practice of artistic styles, we can ultimately see a cross-cultural vocabulary of aesthetics and the remnants of modern history in Sanyu’s work. As the artist once said, "The paintings of Europe can be described as an elaborate meal, consisting of barbecue, fried foods, and meat of all kinds. My work is akin to vegetables, fruit, or salad, which helps shape and change the way people appreciate paintings." Treading the line between Western modernity and cultural tradition, Sanyu bore witness to a burgeoning new era, and embodied the dandy aesthetics in a cross-cultural modern milieu. His artistic expression that amalgamates the disparate values and aesthetics of the East and the West underscores not only Sanyu’s inclusiveness, but also his compromise and reinvention in shaping his aesthetic vocabulary. There is a profound creative spirit in Sanyu's work, transcending cultural boundaries, elitism, and popular culture, allowing us a chance to grasp the poetics in aesthetics and history.