Tomorrow marks the end of a two-week exhibition at Today Art Museum showcasing Chinese painter Shan Fan and German painter Ingeborg zu Schleswig-Holstein.
The choice of the two artists can at first be startling. Schelswig-Holstein worked for two years as assistant to Andy Warhol, though the pop influence in her work can hardly be felt: it appears more as an attempt to combine the explosive nature of Pollock’s dripping with the deep spirituality of Rothko. Her watercolors are almost uniquely composed of two colors: blue — the color of the sea in front of which she grew up — and red — the color she considers the “color of life,” and which best reflects her introspective quest. (See above.)
Shan Fan benefitted from both Chinese and Western fine art training: born in Hangzhou, he went on to continue his studies at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing before receiving his master’s degree from the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg. His work can appear to seem like the exact opposite of Ingeborg’s. Featuring only black and white colors, his paintings appear essentially figurative. Some of his representations of bamboo strictly follow the Chinese canons of oil painting: they’re as inscrutable as Ingeborg’s universe.
However, as we move through the exhibition we realize that these seemingly unrelated ways of approaching art (introspective vs. real) end up overlapping. As Shan Fan strives to grasp the very essence of the bamboo he is depicting, his paintings become abstracts. As Ingeborg’s works are subject to the influence of the many years she spent by the seaside, they become almost figurative: we see waves and storms taking shape on the canvas.
The challenge is therefore successfully tackled: the exhibition shows us that if taken to a certain point, Western introspection and Asian contemplation do lead to a comparable result. As the artist gets deeper into her self, her art starts reflecting the world she lives and lived in. As the artist focuses harder to describe the world he sees, he can’t avoid describing part of his self.
The exhibition ends on Saturday, April 12.
Today Art Museum
Building 4, Pingguo Shequ, 32 Baiziwan Lu, Chaoyang District
January 12 to February 27
(010) 5876 0600-100
Thomas is the founder of the online art photography gallery Kind of Light – 光有时.