19 - 30 Jun, 2008
An Exhibition of Prints by Wang Huaiqing & Antoni Tapies

Anna Ning Fine Art is proud to present an exhibition of lithographs by Antoni Tàpies and etchings by Wang Huai Qing.

The greatest living Spanish artist, Antoni Tàpies’ (b. 1923) artistic achievement ranks with that of Picasso, Dali and Miró. He is known for his many mixed media works and graffiti-like paintings which since the 1940s have displayed a highly original artistic technique.

Born in Barcelona, Tàpies began to study law in 1944 but two years later decided to devote himself to art. He was largely self-taught and his early work had Surrealist tendencies, influenced by Joan Miró and Paul Klee. During the 1950s Tàpies’ work moved towards abstraction. He started working in a style known as Arte Povera, in which non-artistic materials were incorporated into his paintings. Using a thickly textured impasto, Tàpies added clay, sand and marble dust to his paints. He also included scraps of paper, string and rags in his compositions. From 1970 onwards, Tàpies frequently used real objects and pieces of furniture in his works.

Printmaking has also been one of Tàpies’ central activities and he has created many etchings, aquatints and lithographs, as well as illustrated books, which are recognized as a major part of his oeuvre. Here one sees the same unmistakable artistic language as in his paintings: an expressive vocabulary of elementary forms, blots, stains, impressions, traces, textual and mathematical signs, and the prevalence of red and black colours. Tàpies has said of his work as a printmaker: “I approach all of my work with the same spirit.” Since the 1980s Tàpies has been increasingly interested in Eastern philosophy, in particular the idea of the identity of man and nature.

Tàpies became world-famous after his first solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York in 1953. His works are held in major world museum collections including the Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, Tate Gallery, London, Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid, and National Museum of Fine Arts, Argentina. The Fundacio Tàpies in Barcelona is dedicated to his life and work.

Just as Tàpies believes that “One can make art out of simple, humble things; small things can be transcendental,” the Chinese artist Wang Huai Qing creates powerful black and white compositions out of a simple chair or the cross beams of a house.

Born in Beijing in 1944, Wang Huai Qing was interested in painting from an early age. He entered the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1964, but was sent to the countryside for hard labour, graduating in 1971. From 1979 to 1981 he completed a master’s degree at the Central Academy, studying under numerous professors including Wu Guanzhong (b. 1919).

In the 1980s Wang Huai Qing’s works won many prizes and have subsequently been shown in numerous exhibitions including the “10th Ueno Royal Museum Grand Prize Exhibition” in Japan in 1992; “China 5,000 Years” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1998; and the “1st Beijing International Art Biennale” at the China National Art Museum in 2003.

Following in the footsteps of his teacher, Wu Guanzhong, Wang Huai Qing moved from early figurative oil paintings to focus on the form of everyday objects – houses, tables, chairs – always seeing the powerful abstract imagery that they suggest. Wu Guanzhong found abstract beauty in nature; Wang Huai Qing found the same in man-made objects.

Wang Huai Qing adopted artistic elements from traditional Chinese furniture, creating a unique personal style characterized at once by a graphic strength and modern elegance. As Michael Sullivan has written, “Wu Guanzhong had discovered the beauty of the white-walled and grey-tiled houses of the Jiangnan region. Wang Huai Qing takes us inside them.” Entranced by the vertical and horizontal lines and structural shapes of traditional houses and furniture, he expresses their aesthetic beauty in minimalist black and white compositions. Often he softens the stark contrasts by employing a range of gray tones reminiscent of Chinese ink and wash. This has the effect of heightening the textural effect of the painting.

Like Wu Guanzhong, Wang Huai Qing’s subject matter has an inherent symbolism: the wavy grain of the wood, the way the dark wood of posts and beams contrasts with the plain white walls, connect with a traditional Chinese aesthetic consciousness. They allude to ancient literati poetry and the cultural atmosphere of the region, as well as to the artist’s personal feelings.

Wang Huai Qing’s emphasis on the significance of form and symbolism above realistic depiction, his apparent simplicity of composition, as well as his fondness for textural effects, is in fact very close to the spirit of Antoni Tàpies’ work. The exhibition thus brings together two great artists of different generations, who live on opposite sides of the world, with quite different lives and sources of inspiration. Yet each has his own individual style of abstraction which arouses the viewer’s attention for both its artistic integrity and ideological depth.