The monochromatic ink paintings of Chinese artist and scholar Tai Xiangzhou bridge the gulf between ancient traditions and contemporary artistic practice.
Combining elements of Chinese philosophy with modern astronomy, Tai creates landscapes in the realist style of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and semiabstract expanses of rocks and clouds floating in extraterrestrial worlds.
His unique approach is grounded in his training as a calligrapher, his studies of Chinese painting and philosophy, and time spent working as a paintings conservator at the Palace Museum, Beijing, where he became intimately familiar with traditional techniques and materials. Ever fastidious, Tai employs antique silks, special ink, and paper made according to ancient methods. His formats tend to be traditional as well—handscrolls, hanging scrolls, album leaves, and large screens.
But he is also interested in the relationship between art and modern science, and these concerns inform his painting in both its terrestrial and extraterrestrial modes. Tai’s paintings in Song style evoke the majesty and monumentality of nature, recalling the composition, brushwork, and great masterpieces of the era. Compared with Song landscapes, his versions sometimes seem less the result of direct observation than fantastical visions that transport the viewer to another realm.
This exhibition brings together 14 works by the acclaimed artist—including horizontal and vertical scrolls, screens, and album leaves drawn from the artist’s own collection and others in the United States—that together dissolve and even transcend distinctions between the traditional and the innovative. Tai’s extraordinary paintings are not only visual but also visionary, leading the viewer into imaginary realms and inspiring wonder toward the unknown universe.