The Thinker, Cai Zhenyu, The Story of the “Competition Between Two Painters” and Perennial Philosophy: some thoughts on “The Pavilion of Three Mirrors”, 2022, Issue 73
Pro Helvetia, The Dwelling Place of the Other in Me: Han Mengyun, Dorota Gawęda + Eglė Kulbokaitė, Power Station of Art, Shanghai
Whence things have their origin:The meaning of abstract painting and In Between Islands / Chong Fu | 但萬物由它產生——抽象繪畫的意義與《無定》/ 傅翀
Mengyun Han: In Between Islands
by Jonathan Goodman
Mengyun Han put up a show remarkable for its sophistication and accomplishment. Han is determined to maintain a mostly Chinese view of things—this despite the fact that she spent four years at Bard College in upstate New York and a semester in graduate school at Rutgers University. Her influences, she maintains, have to do with Taoist philosophy and traditional ink painting, although, perhaps inevitably, one also sees the work as being inspired by mid-20th century abstract expressionists, whose influence still is felt among painters in New York. But, to be fair, she made it clear in conversation that her esthetic is based upon a measured view of both Western and Asian cultures—an outlook that adds to her unusual complexity as an artist. Indeed, she uses both oils and ink in her paintings, not so much as a compromise but rather as an example of dialogue.
Letting, (2013) is a fine, densely painted pattern of vertical threads, rather like an abstract tapestry; it is very large (120 by 48 inches) and commands the space by virtue of its subtle patterning, achieved by her coloring certain areas brown and gray. Its composition reads clearly to someone familiar with Western abstraction, but it would also register in the thoughts of someone interested in Asian calligraphy—a merger that is present in much of the art in the show. A much smaller painting, Momentum, (2013) is very powerful, even monumental in the thrust of its movement. Composed of ink on paper, the painting consists of two broad bands: a vertical black stripe rising upward, with part of it bleeding into a semi curved, lightly inked horizontal surface. The combination is striking.
Wandering Mind, (2012), an oil on canvas done in black, gray, and white, conveys the noise of the mind when it is not directed toward a single point. Samsara III (2012) is a large, four-panel painting that folds across the corner of two walls; it consists of a white composition with a V-shaped design painted into it, and this is followed by three darker panels—ostensibly the blindness of death coming after a shortly lit period of life (one remembers that samsara is a Buddhist term, referring to the cycle of life and death). It is an ambitious work of art, whose size induces extended contemplation; the viewer feels as if he could walk into the painting. In these paintings, Han shows off ambition of a genuine sort, transcending the very worldly terms surrounding her as a Chinese artist.
Published on artcritical
Jonathan Goodman is an art writer based in New York. For more than thirty years he has written about contemporary art–for such publications as Art in America, Sculpture, and fronterad (an Internet publication based in Madrid). His special interests have been the new art of Mainland China and sculpture. He currently teaches contemporary art writing and thesis essay writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Mengyun Han: In Between Islands / Jonathan Goodman