Mind and Scape: the mind and soul, the spirit and elements, the scene and landscape. The fusion of mind and landscape draws from tradition, harkening back to the ways in which Song, Yuan and Ming dynasty literati painting sought out possibilities beyond the approaches of Neo-Confucianism. As Dong Qichang famously said, "when it comes to the magnificence of the scene, the landscape (Shan-Shui or Moutain-water) surpasses the painting; when it comes to the ingenuity of brush and ink, the painting surpasses the landscape." He was demonstrating the inevitability of the interplay between mental cultivation and the richness of the natural landscape.
The group exhibition 'Mind-Scape' explores the spiritual dimension of cultural heritage. The artists of this exhibition use open minds (shaping the landscape with their hearts) to steep themselves in the spirit and allure of Chinese traditional culture, whether re-creating the conceptual imagery of Tang and Song poetry in a contemporary context, drawing from the atmosphere of literati landscape painting to allude to a solitary mindset and firm individuality; using poetic catharsis to express refined poetic sentiments; or fusing ancient and modern, East and West, seeking elegance from traditional culture and inspiration from Western artistic civilization, forging a new soul in the spirit of the era.
In terms of brushwork, drawing from nature, from ancient depictions, from calligraphy and landscape painting, from absorption by the brush, from the fusion of ink and water, from the permeation and infiltrate of ink on the scroll paper, a tension unfolds from uncertain change and the flow of writing. This calligraphic tension requires long-term cultural cultivation and the subtle transformation of energies. It is not the tension between the seen and unseen in the West, but a question of penetration.
For many months, the author has been exchanging emails and letters with Professor Xia Kejun, and in these letters, Dr. Xia has used Mind-Scape to share how to engage in the 'three levels' of seeing: "The first level, 'seeing', is actual seeing, as if something has been seen. In the second level, 'seeing yet not seeing,' nothing has been seen; it is the mind seeing, but how does the mind see? How does the mind engage in seeing that is not seeing? It is an act of seeing that transcends the senses, transcends vision, an act that wanders, that casts off conventions and wanders to the heart's content. It is seeing sight. The third layer is 'not not seeing' - it is still seeing, but this seeing is adjusted to a new kind of seeing, a seeing of emptiness, the seeing of the arrival of emptiness and the void, and opening towards it. It is like Chuang Tzu's concept of the fasting of the mind: listening to the ears, listening to the mind, listening to the qi. When that emptiness is concentrated, that vacant, empty waiting, that is the third level. For this reason, the seeing of the mind-scape is the seeing from one's own mind to the empty mind. In that shift, the scene changes."
Since the 20th century, the enhanced progression of modernization in Western politics and economics and the integration of capital and technology have worked to accelerate the unification of the globe, producing a crisis of modernity. Excessive modernization and consumerism in today's life have depleted spiritual civilization and led people to gradually turn their backs on nature. The art of today lacks spirituality, containing only contemporaneity, fashion and visual effect. It is unable to express a new attitude towards contemporary culture! Likewise, Chinese art today ignores the inner mind of individual lives, overlooks the nature as the subject, and excessively imitates the West, turning its back on several millennia of Chinese cultural traditions and losing those distant yet familiar spiritual qualities of the literati.
Now we need a new mind and a new scape, as well as the opening of new relationships between ourselves, tradition and nature. If artists can carry on the spirit of Chinese writing traditions, reacting to the rhythms of life and the harmony of nature and expressing the philosophical spirit of the East, then they can create a new language entirely different from Western abstract painting. This is a new attitude towards art that can be expressed by Eastern culture, the eternal path that today's Chinese painters must take in their quest for Chinese culture and the direction that we will take in the future.
Heritage is merely one level of artistic exploration. More important is carrying on in that heritage and transcending it artistically. In this sense, from literati painting, particularly ink and wash landscape painting traditions, there is a component that is similar to Neo-Confucianism, in that it can open up a new channel for linkage with modernity. Unfortunately, this channel was ignored long ago. The total westernization that began in the Qing dynasty and was further encouraged in the May Fourth Movement has buried the spiritual traditions of Chinese literati painting, and art has been altered or led by Western perspective methods. That is why it is so important now to rediscover the meaning of mind and scape.
During a visit with elder painter Qiu Shihua, he said to me, "Painting is an act of personal cultivation. It is cultivated as a gate to enlightenment, a unified vision, a pure nature, just like monks and walkers of the path; such an approach to painting is closer to nature, is like the morning and evening practices of monks, day in and day out, a simple, plain life. Painting is purity, the mind is pure and natural. Painting brings me at one with nature, clearing my mind and allowing me to see minutia. Painting clears the soul." This reflects the timelessness enclosed in the mindset that the Mind-Scape Chinese contemporary art exhibition aspires to. That which is substance is empty; "man is ruled by the land, the land is ruled by the heavens, the heavens are ruled by the Dao, and the Dao is ruled by nature." This worldview corresponds to the study of changes, and connects man to nature, man to the wellspring, man to eternity, permeating the hidden life force in all things. There is no time or space. Nothing exists but the mind.
Founder and Artistic Director
3812 Contemporary Art Projects