The Hua Gallery based in London, founded by Shanyan Koder, which specialises in Chinese contemporary art, have announced a forthcoming exhibition by the respected Chinese artist and poet Wang Ai. Beijing based Wang Ai, who along with his artistic works, has published poetic works, a full length novel and a collection of novellas, will be presenting his first solo show in the United Kingdom at the Hua Gallery under the title Hidden Wisdom and will feature his delicate but powerful compositions created on rice paper with Chinese ink, pencil and tea. The otherworldly paintings of Wang Ai draw on the inspiration of traditional Chinese art where they tried to capture the inner sense of nature rather than the outer experience of natural elements, along with the use of a refined colour palette to avoid the distractions of vibrant colours. Observed from a distance the ethereal effect of the subtle use of colour and materials makes one contemplate the compositions as one may a Rothko painting, as a form of colour meditation, but as the viewer draws nearer another world is offered up, charged with symbolism, as elegant forms emerge and a work full of fine detail and structure appears that offer connections between man, nature and society.
Other than being able to enjoy the paintings of Wang Ai on a purely aesthetic basis, if one wants to understand fully the concepts found within the images that emerge, it is essential to understand the symbolism of the images presented, so here are some brief pointers. Bird (niăo)-Birds hold a special place in Chinese culture and the meanings vary greatly depending on the species represented, such as a duck for marital bliss, dove for devotion to one’s children or a swallow for good fortune. Niăo is also the word for a male member and a bird is traditionally used to symbolise a young man in pursuit of a woman he loves. Butterfly (húdié)-Often used as a symbol of elegance, beauty, young love and long life. When found on clothing they are to strengthen the energy of love and in paintings it means longevity. Mountain (Shān)- Used in a spiritual role as a place where people are closest to God and represents the sacred power of nature as a vital life force in the form of rain. An opening in the mountain suggests a Taoist dongtian, or cave heaven. Deer (lù) –The Deer is used to symbolise wealth and longevity and are often to be found around temples. Lù also sounds like an ancient Chinese sound for the salary of a Government official, so it can also represent power and status. Eagle (yīng) – Generally a symbol of strength, but its location indicates different meanings such as on a rock in the sea can stand for a hero fighting a lone battle. If in a Pine tree it is a gift for an older man, wishing him strength. Featured with a snake it is a reference to a divine creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Horse (mă)-The Horse is a symbol of endurance, purity and loyalty. It can also be used to signify strength and quick advancement in rank. Phoenix (Fènghuáng) – Differs greatly to the western ideals of a phoenix, in China it is superior to all other birds but is described as being a combination of several different birds such as a golden pheasant, crane, peacock, swallow, parrot and the mandarin duck. It symbolises high virtue and grace and is connected to royalty. When pictured with a dragon it demonstrates a happy union between husband and wife.
Wang Ai was born in Huangyan, Zhejiang Province in 1971. Considered to be a respected Chinese artist, poet and fiction writer, Wang Ai started out publishing his poetry in the late 1980s before moving to Beijing in 1994 and residing in the Yuanmingyuan Artists Village. The artworks of Wang Ai, whether the subject is about the connection of man with nature or commenting on social events, are characterised by balance and harmony, always presented in the most elegant and refined ways with his beautiful use of subtle colours. The beautiful compositions created on rice paper with inks, pencils and tea, exude an otherworldly essence that is irresistible to explore, as the paintings then reveal their hidden wisdom and symbols.
Hidden Wisdom, the first solo UK show by Chinese artist and poet Wang Ai, will open at the Hua Gallery in Battersea, London on the 21st January, 2015 and run through until 21st March 2015. A catalogue can be viewed here.
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Photos courtesy of Hua Gallery.