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Light Water Dark Mountain: Yan Shanchun and Cao Xiaoyang

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
19 October, 2018
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Closing / End Date:
4 January, 2019
Event Category:
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Hanart TZ Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of the duo solo exhibition Light Water Dark Mountain: Yan Shanchun and Cao Xiaoyang, taking place on 19 October 2018, from 6 to 8pm.

Of different generations, Yan Shanchun and Cao Xiaoyang both are graduates of the China Academy of Art, and both presently live in Hangzhou. The paintings of these two artists comprise the dynamic of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ in this exhibition: Yan Shanchun uses a mix of ink and brush, acrylic and other materials to create paintings which evoke the techniques of mural paintings, and express his emotional and spiritual connection to the landscape of West Lake, while Cao Xiaoyang uses charcoal as his brush, and his vividly sketched scenes of trees, mists, and mountains express his deep immersion in the landscape of Hangzhou.

Mr. Yan Shanchun cherishes the poetry of Tao Yuanming and holds dear its compelling peacefulness.  In his paintings, the views of West Lake are indistinct, remote and abstract; they embody the quietude of the scene. For the spectator, Yan’s restrained use of ink-wash recalls impressions of an autumn lake, an evening mist, sky blue snow, or the first light of an autumn sun over the lake’s surface. The grand simplicity of Yan’s art corresponds to the artistic ideal of Gong Zizhen who declared that “the real beauty of a maid or a mountain can never be fully appreciated because of its mysterious serenity.” It is not easy to classify Yan’s art as either figurative or not figurative, but I cannot help thinking that his art has reached with ease a state of supreme serenity.

Excerpted from ForwardFan Jingzhong


Yan Shanchun was deeply immersed in the study of the lives, connoisseurship and art of early 20thcentury literati masters such as Huang Binhong and Pan Tianshou, and extended this also to very systematic research into (and publication of an important study regarding) the entire literati tradition which was so highly revered by them. At the same time, in his artistic training Yan specialized in Western painting and became well versed in a whole range of techniques from realism to impressionism and abstraction. In his analysis of the Western-influenced painting of artists such as Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu, Ni Yide and Guan Liang, Yan Shanchun came to the realization that the concept of quweinot only was a common ground shared by both Chinese and Western painting but also was an intrinsic quality of the art of painting itself. His solid foundation in formalist techniques combined with his deep artistic cultivation have allowed him to travel a path completely different from that of other contemporary Chinese artists: one marked by an ability to nurture and develop his painting by cultivating his knowledge.

Excerpted from Literati Painting? Abstract Painting? Some Thoughts on
the Art of Yan Shanchun
Lu Peng


Xiaoyang was born into the world of the print artist, the world of Western painting, but in the end he has returned to a deep awareness of the Chinese shanshui tradition. Pastoral paintings and landscapes flourished in Europe in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as seen in the eternal cycle of seasons depicted in the rural countryside of Jean-François Millet’s work, and the sacred solemnity found in the scenery of German romantic painter Johann Friedrich Overbeck. Pre-modern Chinese lived with a different system, a more authentic system of shanshui, people of the time did not only sojourn through cityscapes and physical landscapes, but also undertook spiritual sojourns through the shanshuiconstructed by poetry and calligraphy, gardens and paintings.

⋯⋯For Xiaoyang, the intentionality of his paintings is not so much to provide the viewer with the experience of sojourn, but rather to engage in a process of self-cultivation. Through the intensity with which he creates his marks on the paper’s surface, Xiaoyang seeks to discover a spiritual detachment from an increasingly fast-paced world, a kind of personal, contemporary vision of Shangri-la.

Excerpted from Shanshui + Landscape: A Third Path?Jiang Jun


Xiaoyang has devoted himself exclusively to shanshui (Literally, ‘mountains and water’; the Chinese concept of brush-and-ink landscape painting) art for over ten years. And through all these years, each time Xiaoyang paints, it seems that he is seeking to evoke the archetypal shanshui scroll: the scroll that has endured through thousands of years, through the ravages of time, the invasions of insects, the turmoil of war, and that retains faint, misty traces still discernible on its surface. The scroll, in itself, is shanshui. When sketching in nature, the artist stands amidst the mountains. When painting in the studio, the scenery reappears in the artist’s mind, and materializes through the movements of his body: the painter and his subject matter become as one, bonded together in a process of mutual cultivation, like polishing a piece of jade.

Excerpted from Sharing Silent Secrets: Cao Xiaoyang’s
Way of Shanshui
Gao Shiming



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