Installation view of SU XINPING’s paintings in “Perfection by Chance–A Yi Pai Series Exhibition,” at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, 2015. (Left) Eight Things No. 10, 2014, oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm; (Middle) Eight Things No. 3, 2014, oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm; (Right) Eight Things No. 12, 2014, oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries.

Perfection By Chance—A Yi Pai Series Exhibition

Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong
Hong Kong China

A refreshing take on Chinese contemporary abstract art is being offered at the Pedder Building location of Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. Gathering the works of six prominent painters, “Perfection By Chance—A Yi Pai Series Exhibition,” is curated by Gao Minglu, a distinguished scholar of Chinese contemporary art. The works of artists Qin Yufen, Su Xiaobai, Su Xinping, Tan Ping, Yang Zhilin and Zhu Jinshi collectively represent Yi Pai—an aesthetic theory developed by Gao as a holistic way of understanding modern and contemporary Chinese art—in which the spontaneity and formlessness of Chinese abstraction is emphasized as an extension of the nation’s ancient culture and philosophy.

In 2009, Gao published an essay entitled “Yi Pai: A Synthetic Theory Against Representation,” in which he postulates that Yi Pai artists deduce a unique interpretation of modern and postmodern art, as well as Western cultural theory, and, simultaenously, use this visual vocabulary to challenge Western-centric perspectives. They follow the notion of “perfection by chance,” which posits the act of removing preconceived ideas to enter a clear state of mind, where the artists can embark on a free flow of expression that leads them to a higher state of spirituality.

Installation view of TAN PING’s Sketch, 2014, charcoal on paper, 78.7 × 109.2 cm each. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

The strokes of oil paint in Mongolia-born Su Xinping’s paintings have the aesthetic beauty and fluidity of Chinese ink painting, while also displaying traces of Western modernity. Eight Things No. 3 (2014) is an explosion of energy and monochromatic tones on canvas. Resembling a volcanic eruption, varying shades of blacks and grays bursting from a central point emit a cloud of smoke on the canvas.

Elsewhere in the show, multidisciplinary artist Qin Yufen’s paintings display the characteristics of Western abstraction, yet simultaneously evokes the aesthetics of ethereality and serenity found in Zen Buddhism. One of the few artists permitted to leave China in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, Qin’s oeuvre carries a distinct influence from her years living in Germany, where she still spends part of her time today. Inspired by ancient Chinese poetry, Diffuse 1 (2014) is a harmonious layering of xuan paper, or rice paper, with colored inks and rubbings of traditional Chinese medicine. The herbs impart a unique rendering of marks and textures on the fragile rice paper, bringing together Qin’s influences of Chinese culture and attributes.

By contrast, the subdued charcoal lines in Tan Ping’s works are of pure emotional expression and an inquiry into the relationship between the artist and his medium. Of his nine works on display, seven are charcoal drawings on xuan paper, all titled Sketch (2014). Displayed atop low standing plinths, the works exemplify the meditational quality of Tan’s drawings.

TAN PING, Sketch, 2014, charcoal on paper, 78.7 × 109.2 cm each. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

Concluding the show is Folded Moonlight (2014) by Zhu Jinshi, one of the leading contemporary artists in China. His thick application of oil paint on canvas produces a three-dimensional quality that is distinctive to the artist’s painting practice. Zhu first encountered the works of Carl Andre, Joseph Beuys and the Arte Povera movement during the time he spent living in Germany in the 1980s. During this period, Zhu started to use styles of contemporary Western art to explore the possibilities in modern Chinese culture and materials. The build-up of heavy strokes on the surface of his canvases subsequently reduce the paintings to a dialogue between the artist and material.

A common thread that binds “Perfection By Chance” is the holistic approach that the six exhibiting artists have adopted in their practice. Yi Pai combines the influences of Western art and cultural theory with those from ancient China to arrive at an alternative way of viewing contemporary Chinese art.  

ZHU JINSHI, Folded Moonlight, 2014, oil on canvas,180 × 160 × 3 cm. Courtesy the artist and Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong.

“Perfection by Chance—A Yi Pai Series Exhibition” is on view at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, until May 10, 2015.