In the art world, an exhibit’s importance can be gauged, in part, by its travel.
The International Modern Brush Painting exhibition started in Taiwan, and its U.S. tour has visited New York and Chicago and will head to San Francisco and Los Angeles — after stopping in Columbia.
MU associate art professor Lampo Leong brought the exhibit to MU’s Bingham Gallery by making plans last year to display the collection that was otherwise booked two years in advance. Luckily for Leong, he knew the organizers.
“I think it’s very important for the art community and the university community to see some international exhibits,” said Leong, whose work is included in the show. “This show will bring a new perspective to Columbia.”
The exhibition, which will be on display through Friday, was curated by Chinese art critic Daojian Pi and showcases the modern mixed-media brush paintings of several distinguished artists from Asia, Europe and the U.S., including Xingjian Gao of France, who is a Nobel Prize-winning author.
Most of the artists featured in the exhibit still use traditional mediums, but it is the subject matter and artistic approaches that set modern brush paintings apart from their predecessors, Leong said. While traditional brush paintings focus mostly on nature, modern ones are more abstract and tackle ideas such as politics, outer space and “inner space,” which pertains to the mind, the spirit and the imagination.
“The formats are very familiar, but the concepts are different,” said Brooke Cameron,an MU art professor who focused her graduate studies on Asian art.
The modern brush paintings at MU include identifiable and abstract landscapes, rigid moonscapes and fiery depictions of the world from space. There are vividly colorful fish made of leaves, geometric pieces riddled in hidden calligraphy and an abstract painting of a goat in snow — or rather, the marks it left on the snow-covered ground.
Traditionally, brush paintings were mostly black ink on white rice paper or silk using brushes made from bamboo and animal hair. Modern brush painters incorporate mediums such as collage, silk screen, digital technology and paints used in Western art in addition to traditional Asian materials.
“Tradition grows,” Leong said. “Tradition is not something in the past that we have to keep copying.”
As humans have learned more about the world around them from science, technology and growing opportunities for intercultural exchange, artists’ expressions of the world around them must, in turn, follow, Leong said.
“Our understandings of the world are very different than ancient times,” he said.
Among colleagues, Leong, whose work has been shown in more than 250 galleries, is known to bridge gaps between Asian and Western art. Leong, who was educated in China and the U.S., said he tries to synthesize both artistic experiences and, ultimately, create a new medium.
Leong’s work on display is digitally enhanced and features several mediums. His works start as brush paintings, which he scans onto a computer. After manipulating the works using Adobe Photoshop, he prints the images onto watercolor paper or canvas and finishes them with acrylic and oil paints.
Once people view Asian art, Cameron said, they begin to view art from their own culture differently.
“Asian art is different from Western art,” she said. “It’s like learning a different language.”