Wu Guanzhong: Expressions of Pen & Palette opens from 31 August 2018
To commemorate the centennial year of artist Wu Guanzhong’s birth in 1919, National Gallery Singapore presents Wu Guanzhong: Expressions of Pen & Palette, opening 31 August 2018. For the first time, the artist’s use of art and literature will be explored in this exhibition through a selection of key works from the Gallery’s collection and major private collections. The exhibition reveals the recurring themes and symbolism that run through his work, including depictions of his hometown and landscapes of Jiangnan (south of Yangtze River), the bridging of figuration with abstraction and traditional ink aesthetics with oil.
Featuring close to 50 works in seven thematic sections, the exhibition will span five decades of Wu’s career. Quotes extracted from his literature will be presented on the walls, each selected in dialogue with his paintings, offering insights into the artist’s thoughts and visual expressions that shaped his momentous practice.
Dr Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, said, “This exhibition is a continuation of National Gallery Singapore’s effort to highlight visionary artists of the 20th century and their contribution to the development of the region’s modern art. Having the privilege to oversee one of the world’s largest public collections of Wu Guanzhong’s artworks, the Gallery aims to provide fresh perspectives towards appreciating Wu’s art within the wider context of ink aesthetics. Wu’s paintings and writings open up new possibilities for modern Chinese art, paving the way for younger generations of artists to break new ground. They continue to inspire many to this day.”
An artistic journey of aesthetic sensitivities, creativity, and contemplation
“I pursue the expression of one’s innermost feelings and spiritual realm. Painting and writing are merely different methods employed to express these sensations.”
“Mystical Beauty of Spiritual Realms,” 1985
A Collection of Essays by Wu Guanzhong Vol.1, pages 210, 211
吴冠中丛1, 210-211 页
Wu Guanzhong is one of the most significant Chinese artists of the 20th century. He is renowned for his distinctive style of integrating Western and Chinese art traditions, in part due to the wide range of influences he was exposed to during his studies at the Hangzhou National Academy of Art in China and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His oeuvre reflected his belief in both indigenising oil painting and modernising ink painting.
Throughout his art practice, Wu valued innovation over tradition. He was indefatigable in experimenting with the form and style of his paintings, transitioning seamlessly from figurative to abstract, while staying rooted in Chinese artistic sensibilities. Despite facing challenges such as the Chinese state-sanctioned art system at that time, which prohibited representation of Western bourgeois values, he was determined to carve out a space for his own expressions.
From his plein-air paintings of the river towns of Jiangnan where he grew up, to the countryside where he was sent to labour during the Cultural Revolution, as well as Beijing and its suburban environment, Wu’s works convey both the vitality and the tranquility of life seen through his eyes.
Dr Cai Heng, co-curator of the exhibition, shared, “There is a strong connection between Wu’s art and literature. As he pursued art creation grounded by his life experience and artistic belief, he expressed them not only through his paintings, but also in his writings. This allowed us to gain insights into Wu’s paintings and writings and a deeper, more intimate understanding of his art and life.”
Held at the Wu Guanzhong Gallery of National Gallery Singapore, Wu Guanzhong: Expressions of Pen & Palette opens from 31 August 2018 to 29 September 2019, 10am to 7pm from Saturday to Thursday, and 10am to 9pm on Fridays. This exhibition is co-curated by National Gallery Singapore curators, Dr Cai Heng and Jennifer K. Y. Lam.
General Admission fees apply. General Admission is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and priced at $20 for foreigners. For more information about the exhibition, please visit: www.nationalgallery.sg/wuguanzhong
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