Revolution in traditional ink-wash painting is always easier said than done, because it is a difficult mission to shake off the bonds of the stereotyped tableau, contents and subjects.

But veteran artist He Xi has made it.

Featuring a collection of his recent paintings, He’s new solo-exhibition not only showcases his elegant and subtle technique, but also his philosophical thinking toward a changing society and people, symbolized by fish, birds, bats and cranes.

Curated by Jiang Ning and Hu Jianjun, the exhibition at C+Collection runs through August 15.

Born in 1960 in Beijing, He is a graduate from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, majoring in traditional ink-wash.

When the avant-garde art movement (‘85 New Wave) swept around China’s academies in the late 1980s, He saw the new possibilities for true self-expression.

He later admitted that Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), a pessimistic philosopher, and Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte (1889-1967), a surrealistic artist, had the greatest influence on him.

Perhaps that might explain his fantastic or even absurd tableau mixed with impossible scenarios — a flying fish over the endless sea, a climbing monkey locked behind a glass pane, or a boat sailing above a haul of fish.

“The artist uses his symbolic art language to deconstruct those traditional Chinese symbols, be it the net or glass,” said Lu Fusheng, president of the Shanghai Calligraphy & Painting Publishing House.

“Under his brushstrokes, all implies a kind of shackle or is a metaphor.”

The artist says the subtle and complicated metaphors are actually ignited by the dilemma between human communications, the chaos in urban construction, the contradiction between man and nature, and the current condition of traditional culture and ink-wash painting.

The highlight of the exhibition is his “Specimen” series that features some ancient and modern Chinese masterpieces soaked in an antiseptic solution in glass cabinets.

The series reflects the artist’s superb painting technique, and also his attitude toward tradition.

“I am not against tradition,” he says. “Like specimen that being studied, I respect tradition.

“However, it stays in a glass cabinet.”

Exhibition info

Date: Through August 15, 10:30am-4:30pm; Thursday 2-5pm is reserved for public review.

Venue: C+Collection

Tel: 5888-5678

Address: Tomson Riviera, 28 Huayuanshiqiao Rd

A revolution is not a dinner party, even if it is in art

“Urban Life”

A revolution is not a dinner party, even if it is in art