National Gallery Singapore opened late November last year, and I was of course eager to check it out during my summer in Singapore! It’s at the site where the former Supreme Court building and City Hall used to be, which have now been restored and combined to form Singapore’s newest art museum. The architecture is gorgeous (but I will save that for another post), and there’s a slew of galleries with many exhibitions ongoing at the same time.
The standout exhibition to me (when I went) was Wu Guanzhong: Beauty Beyond Form located at the Wu Guanzhong Gallery that boasts to be the biggest exhibition of Wu’s work ever done. It’s being held through 25th September 2016. I wonder if the Wu Guanzhong Gallery will only contain Wu’s works? We’ll have to see about that, for now, more on Wu Guanzhong: Beauty Beyond Form!
All Wu Guanzhong, Red Houses of Qingdao, 1975, oil on board
The Yangtze River Bridge at Nanjing, 1973, oil on board
The exhibition uses a pretty standard chronological format to showcase Wu’s works across his career. Wu was a Chinese artist who developed his distinctive style of combining ‘Chinese’ ink and ‘Western’ oil painting. I liked seeing his earlier works depicting scenes of China in the 1970s, and how he transitioned into making more abstract works. Overall, I find Wu very much rooted in Chinese culture in his choice of subject matter (what the subject of an artwork is).
A Mountain Town Along-side the Yangtze River, 1974, oil on board
The Riverside Jungle, 1978, Chinese ink and color on paper
Really like this one! Love the contrast between the dense jungle and the peaceful boater rowing along the river. Interesting buildup of ink layers for the jungle, difference in tonalities in the depictions of the mountain and the river reflection from the jungle green, and use of compositional space with the jungle taking up most of the painting and a slit of space given to the river to balance it out.
Mulberry Grove, 1981, Chinese ink and color on paper
Yulong Snow Mountain, undated (1983), Chinese ink and color on paper
I was looking at this painting for a while – it’s really quite amazing how the seemingly effortless lines and blobs of ink come together so well to make a picture of a mountain landscape.
The Great Wall (I), 1986, Chinese ink and color on paper
And another favorite of mine, this one done in Wu’s familiar style of lines and colored dots. The thick brushstrokes along the bottom half of the painting really give an impression of the sweeping distance of the Great Wall of China.
A Former Homestead, 1995, Chinese ink and color on paper
Spring and Autumn of Lotus Pond, 1996, oil on canvas
Ferry Pier, 1979, Chinese ink and color on paper
I have to say that the gallery was actually too dim, with very bright spotlights centered on each painting. While it made for a fine viewing experience, my photos came out very dark and unfocused at times so that meant some heavy photo editing on my part.
Not sure who sculpted this, but it’s cute to see a sculpture of Wu at work at the end of the gallery space!
White Haired Flowers, 2003, Chinese ink and color on paper
A World of Ice and Snow, 1997, Chinese ink on paper
Really really like this one, located at the end of the exhibition. I’m not always a fan of abstractness, but Wu’s use of ink with varying tones and line with varying thickness in all of his paintings translates very well to abstract works. I also find the title 冰天雪地 interestingly fitting and very ‘Chinese,’ if I can say so.
The fundamental elements of formal beauty comprise form, color and rhythm. I used Eastern rhythms in the absorption of Western form and color, like a snake swallowing an elephant. Sometimes I felt I couldn’t gulp it all down and I switched to using [Chinese] ink. This is why in the mid-1970s I began creating a large number of ink paintings. Oil paint and ink are two blades of the same pair of scissors used to cut the pattern for a whole new suit. To indigenize oil painting and to modernize Chinese painting: in my view these are two sides of the same face.
This exhibition is free for all Singaporeans! To find out more about the exhibition and National Gallery Singapore, check out their website here.
To view more Wu Guanzhong, check out this post about Hong Kong Museum of Art’s previous exhibition featuring his artworks.