I visited San Diego over the summer and saw two exhibitions of Asian art in the Balboa Park complex. First up was Brush and Ink at the San Diego Museum of Art, an inspiring selection of Chinese paintings chosen by contemporary artist Pan Gongkai (b. 1947), and hung with his own work.
Pan Gongkai is himself a practitioner of traditional ink painting. The works he has chosen here represent different periods and genres, yet he conveys a strong sense of the tradition that unifies them.
Early works include a small painting on silk from the 15th century, Scholar Under a Pine, and two fan paintings by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Landscape with Lake and Three Boats and Landscape with Lake, Bridge, and Fisherman (the second on gold paper).
The art theorist Dong Qichang (1555-1636) is represented with a fan painting too: Orchids, Fungus, and Rock. There is a breath-taking snow scene by Huang Shen (1687-1773), Traveling in the Snow Mountains. There are several 20th century works, including Shrimp by Qi Baishi (1863-1957) – I do enjoy pictures of crustaceans.
For me, this was an interesting complement to the 2015 show Exquisite Nature at the Asian Art Museum, another display of Chinese paintings from across the centuries. However, the San Diego exhibit is twice the size (40 works as opposed to 20) and the space afforded by these huge galleries is immensely helpful, giving the works more room to breathe and enhancing the journey from artistic past to present.
Brush and Ink: Chinese Paintings from the San Diego Museum of Art
The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
29 April to 5 September 2016 (now closed)
Above: Scholar under a Pine, 15th century. Ink and colour on silk. 25.4 x 25.72cm. The San Diego Museum of Art. Image at http://www.balboaparkcommons.org/objectview/item/26151207/SDMA