Qualia Contemporary Art is pleased to present Further Along (越走越遠), an exhibition of works on paper by Chinese artist WANG Tiande. The artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery will feature a new body of work that engages with Chinese poetry, history, and the tradition of brush and ink painting. Framing the collection, dualities between and within the selected works echo the visual interplay between positive and negative space for which WANG is known. The artist’s unique style of landscape “painting” is characterized by his unconventional use of incense, burning away parts of the paper to create outlines of trees, mountains, and rivers that reveal an ink-washed underlayer beneath. The charred landscapes are coupled with pieces of calligraphy, each pairing opening a new channel of discourse around the corresponding textual or mechanical elements of the sources. Further Along 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.
Further Along is structured around two distinct but interconnected threads in WANG’s practice, each rooted in the contemporary reimagination of cultural heritage. The artist’s own collection of calligraphy and stele holds an integral place in his studio, with both the content of the written texts and the medium of their creation informing his process.
In one curatorial grouping, WANG’s works are arranged as diptychs, such as Hermit Tao’s Hut in the Snowy Mountain Vista (陶庐登雪图) and A Returning Boat in the Boundless Expanse of Snow (归舟延雪图). The first landscape is paired with a high-resolution scan of calligraphy from WANG’s personal collection, and the second landscape is paired with a rubbing of a carved stele specially commissioned by the artist to duplicate the same, original piece of calligraphy as the first, but through analog means. Juxtaposing the skilled craftsmanship of traditional carving with the precision of high-resolution scanning technology, WANG explores the conceptual discourse around translation, transcription, and mechanical reproduction.
Complementing the commentary on technology, originality, and recursion evidenced by the first series of works, Further Along also presents a separate array of WANG’s compositions that reference a book of poetry by Fan Shan (Fan Zengxiang). WANG consciously places his own artistic practice in conversation with Fan Shan, who lived and wrote amid the turbulence of the late Qing dynasty and early Republic period. Relating to Fan Shan’s experience of living in a time of transition and turmoil, WANG attempts to connect with the profound inner world of ancient Chinese scholars from his present-day perspective. The ensuing dialogue between WANG and Fan Shan unfolds across the exhibition and prompts viewers to reflect upon the similarities and differences of each artist’s creative context.
One such work in dialogue with Fan Shan, entitled Inquiring the Sea in the Secluded Hermitage (隐庐问前海), also marks an exciting development in WANG’s oeuvre. The artist cites it as one of his first satisfactory attempts at incorporating color into his otherwise monochromatic works, referring to the piece as “a new beginning” for his practice. In preparation for his exhibition at Qualia, WANG recalled the specific color that saturated one of his own memories of the Bay Area, referencing one of Fan Shan’s poems as a source of inspiration.
“Around 2016, I visited San Francisco several times and stayed in a hotel by the sea. Each time, while walking along the beach and seeing the blue sky and the sea gradually merging, I always thought about how the sky and water of San Francisco nurtured people from various places, living above and below the mountain. So, I believe that the stretch of sea extending from the side of the hill I painted must be a place where everyone living on this land can look into the distance and reminisce about the past. Therefore, color can sometimes be a true memory, not just a possibility for a new attempt recorded by an artist.” – WANG Tiande
Further Along invites the public to reflect upon WANG’s contemporary interpretation of traditional Chinese painting and Qing Dynasty-era poetry, while engaging with the culture of innovation in Silicon Valley. The exhibition advocates for a humanistic approach to technology that prioritizes the process over the end result, celebrating the symbiotic relationship between the artist’s hand and 21st-century tools and ideologies exemplified by WANG’s practice.