Two days ago I graduated with an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa. While most people were spending most of their special day posing with their family and friends for photographs, I dragged mine into the Brunei Gallery, which I was lucky to have on campus. On display during the ceremonies is a stunning retrospective of Chinese artist Hong Ling, which just happened to be co-curated by one of my tutors, Shane McCausland.
The exhibition, which is spread across two floors, begins with the artist’s earlier work from the 1980s. Here we can see figurative paintings from Hong’s time as an art student in Beijing. While these images are lovely, it is the painting in the centre of the room, which is not from this period that really stands out. This image is a splattering of bright pink, which is intriguing enough to hold the viewer’s attention and lead them downstairs to where the star images of the show hang proudly against the walls.
The lower gallery displays Hong’s work painted from the 1990s onwards. During this time the artist began to travel and settle on Mount Huanghsan in the UNESCO World Heritage Site province of Anhui. These paintings are constructed on a large scale. Landscapes literally take up the whole wall in bright shades of orange, green, pink and blue. The bright shades are especially striking, as they are not what one would normally associate with Chinese artwork. Hong’s paintings seem very busy and extremely rich in texture. Layers upon layer of paint have been applied to the canvases, resulting in a visual display of wilderness and untouched nature.
Yet the artist still pays homage to Chinese tradition. There are a series of paintings that have been hung in a way similar to hanging scrolls, in a series of rainbow colours. The atmosphere given off by the paintings of the gallery also emits a real appreciation and respect for the natural world on display in the paintings. Also included in the show are photographs and sketchbooks, providing the viewer with a deeper understanding of the artist’s preparatory process.
The exhibition is on display long past the graduation ceremonies and I thoroughly encourage everyone to go and see it.
Hong Ling: A Retrospective is on display at Brunei Gallery, SOAS until 24 September