BERKELEY, CA — Wesley Tongson, who died in 2012, was a up to date Hong Kong painter, however his calligraphy, landscapes, and splash work have been tied to custom. Within the present on the UC Berkeley Artwork Museum and Pacific Movie Archive (BAMPFA), Religious Mountains: The Artwork of Wesley Tongson, Tongson’s work, together with 11 his household not too long ago donated to the museum, grasp alongside works from the museum’s assortment of conventional Chinese language ink work of the Qing dynasty and early twentieth century.
Julia M. White, BAMPFA’s senior curator for Asian Artwork who curated this present, first noticed Tongson’s work at an exhibition at San Francisco’s Chinese language Tradition Middle in 2018, and its dynamism and wide selection impressed her.
“I used to be flummoxed by the way in which he moved from one kind of portray to the following,” she stated. “His splash work are so ethereal and delightful.”
White met Tongson’s sister, Cynthia Tongson, at that present, and invited her for a gathering on the museum with White and Lawrence Rinder, then BAMPFA’s director. They each hoped to increase the vary of the gathering, which has a wealth of Chinese language classical work, however much less trendy ink artwork.
Cynthia Tongson had determined to donate a few of her brother’s artwork after the response she bought to a present of his work, Ink Explorations: A Wesley Tongson Retrospective, which she organized in 2014, after his dying.
“I needed individuals to know the way Wesley had progressed as an artist,” she stated in regards to the present. “Even in Hong Kong nobody knew how he’d progressed into finger portray. Everybody stored telling me the way it was one thing they’d by no means seen earlier than, and I spotted I wanted to share the work.”
Due to its assortment of historic Chinese language portray, in addition to its ties to the College of California, Berkeley, Cynthia Tongson determined to donate Tongson’s work to Berkeley.
White says she organized Religious Mountains with a watch to exhibiting Tongson’s connection to the previous. “I needed to concentrate on placing him within the context of better Chinese language historic perspective,” she stated. “He discovered from his mentors and there’s a respect and a linkage.”
A few of Tongson’s academics are included within the present, comparable to Hong Kong artist Harold Wong, recognized for his panorama portray, and Liu Guosong, a Taiwanese artist who taught a workshop in Hong Kong, and who was known as “the daddy of recent Chinese language ink portray.”
Tongson’s “Religious Mountains 6” (2012) echoes Wong’s 1993 “Sound of the Waterfall,” with each landscapes invented. “We all know it’s a mountain, and we all know it’s a waterfall, however they clearly are imaginary,” White stated.
Tongson’s monochromatic “Untitled” (1997) exhibits the affect of Shitao, the Qing-era grasp that Cynthia Tongson says her brother most revered. The present has his scroll of a lotus from 1704 and “Reminiscences of Nanking,” from the identical 12 months. Each artists search for the essence of the pure world, however don’t attempt to replicate it; White noticed how Tongson’s mountains are solely calmly outlined by their form.
Tongson studied on the Ontario Faculty of Artwork for a number of years and have become keen on Cubism. Pablo Picasso was his favourite Western artist, and you’ll see his affect in “Untitled” as properly. BAMPFA’s Picasso etching, “L’Homme à la guitare” (1915), hangs within the exhibit.
The present additionally has examples of Tongson’s calligraphy, carried out utilizing his arms and fingers fairly than a brush. This has priority in conventional Chinese language portray, as with Gao Qipei, whose 18th-century “Zhong Kui, the Demon Queller” hangs within the present.
Tongson was daring and prolific, drawing on strategies of masters of Chinese language portray to make his large-scale landscapes and complex examinations of nature his personal.
“I feel he had an open thoughts to a variety of completely different strategies,” White stated. “He began portray with fingers and arms and gave up the middleman that the comb supplied and have become nearly part of the murals. Wesley was brave in his willingness to experiment. In the way in which he expresses the pure world, for instance, you see what Wesley did pushing the bounds of ink and paper.”
Religious Mountains: The Artwork of Wesley Tongson continues at BAMPFA (2155 Middle St, Berkeley, Calif.) by way of June 12.