Art historian Catherine Maudsley, the leading authority on the art of Wesley Tongson, discusses the cave and the mountain as powerful paradigms for understanding Tongson’s art. Many of his paintings, often titled Spiritual Mountains and Mountain of Heaven, celebrate the glories and intricacies of mountain ranges and peaks, and he frequently inscribed his later works “Mountain Daoist” (Shandao Daoren). Meanwhile, the cave as symbol provides additional insight into Tongson’s creative process. Schooled in traditional Chinese painting techniques and ethos, Tongson looked to the past and to the well-established figure of the recluse who retreated to immerse himself in calligraphy, poetry, painting, and the study of the masters. Looking inward as well, he experienced periods of isolation that fed his intense creativity and prolific output.
Maudsley curated Ink Explorations: A Wesley Tongson Retrospective at the Hong Kong Arts Centre in 2014 and Wesley Tongson: The Journey at the Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, in 2018. She serves as curator and senior advisor to a number of distinguished private collections around the world and has published extensively in Asian art journals and contributed to numerous books and fine art catalogues, as both author and editor. Maudsley, who now resides in her native Canada, lived in Asia for four decades. She was educated at the University of Toronto, Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and University of Hong Kong, where she was a Connaught Research Scholar, Canada-China Scholar, and Commonwealth Scholar, respectively. She was mentored by the distinguished professor and curator Professor Shih Hsio-yen (1933–2001).