Qualia Contemporary Art is pleased to present Garden of Mind (借景造園), a solo exhibition of paintings by Taiwanese artist PAN Hsinhua. The artist’s first exhibition at the gallery will feature a series of surreal landscape paintings that fuse traditional aspects of Chinese culture and philosophy with contemporary Taiwanese society and the environment. PAN collapses paradoxical and opposing elements on the picture plane, setting the scene for open-ended narratives unfettered by reality. Viewers will generate their own stories from the labyrinthine worlds depicted within the works, each one limitless in its potential for interpretation. Garden of Mind will be open to the public from May 24 – July 14, 2023, with an opening celebration hosted on May 27th from 4:30-6:30 PM PST.
PAN cites a host of references in his work, including Meticulous Painting and Thangka Painting, while forging a distinctive style all his own. Powdered mineral pigments in vibrant shades are mixed with animal glue to create bold hues with what PAN describes as “Eastern characteristics.” Innovating upon the medium’s opaque finish and limited color palette, PAN has developed a technique that broadens the range of tonalities and textures achievable with this traditional material. The rich colors that result from the artist’s carefully-honed process are reminiscent of the dynamic cave paintings in Dunhuang, weathered over hundreds of years and refined with the patina of time. PAN also adopted the method of boneless wash painting in lieu of outlining and coloring, allowing him to make large-scale works that depict spatial depth and dimension outside of realistic perspective.
From PAN’s technical execution and experimentation to his recurring visual motifs, the dialogue abounds between old and new, past and present. While PAN consciously draws from both ancient and recent history, his own position is decidedly current, situated in a context that is shaped by heritage and tradition. Complex scenes composed of cultural relics – bonsai, literati stones, incense burners, and political statuettes – religious and folk patterns, and facets of both the natural and built environments – concrete, architecture, and Taiwanese flora and fauna – all coalesce around the central figure of a small, enigmatic boy, often in surprisingly formal arrangements that belie his youth. The artist renders these imagined landscapes with a precision that masterfully blurs the entanglements between real and surreal elements.
“I wish to bring sarcasm and ridicule with a touch of humor, allowing the protagonist to pretentiously mock traditions or poetic narratives, like letting a child proceed over some form of ritual performed in the adult world, but in a serious and genuine manner.” – PAN Hsinhua
PAN’s playful configurations employ paradox to highlight the anachronism of the present moment and the complexities of contemporary culture from a Taiwanese perspective. The exhibition presents viewers with invented settings for impossible encounters between unlikely counterparts, often subverting social hierarchies and political ideologies in the process. Garden of Mind invites the public to question these foundational pillars while completing each scene with their own ideas and experiences.