Hou is regarded as one of China’s most important contemporary artists to transform Chinese painting. NanHai Art will celebrate the opening of his work on Saturday, February 20th with a reception from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., at their Millbrae gallery (510 Broadway). “Hou Beiren at 100” will feature 14 new paintings created between 2014 and 2015 that continues his exploration of the ‘splash ink and color’ school of painting—a style developed in collaboration with legendary painting master, Chang Dai-chien in the 1960s. Zhang Daqian or Chang Dai-chien (Chinese: 張大千; May 10, 1899 – April 2, 1983) was one of the best-known and most prodigious Chinese artists of the twentieth century. Originally known as a guohua (traditionalist) painter, by the 1960s he was also renowned as a modern impressionist and expressionist painter.
This school of painting incorporates Modernist and Abstract elements with traditional brushwork of classical Chinese painting. In these new works, Hou demonstrates his command of both Chinese and Western traditions, combining bold colors and rhythmic brushwork with abstracted imagery.
Here in the West, Hou is renowned for his contemporary interpretation of the ‘splash ink and color’ school of painting, which seamlessly integrates both Eastern and Western aesthetics. Combining contemporary techniques and age-old methods, Hou often paints on rice paper with Chinese ink and color in a style called pomo. “Po” means splash or breaking/pentrating, while “mo” is the Chinese word for ink.
Hou Beiren was born in 1917 in Liaoning, China and graduated from Kyushu University, Japan in 1943. During his early years, he studied painting under Li Zhongchang, then with Huang Binhong and Zheng Shiqiao. Hou moved from Hong Kong to the United States in 1956 and settled in “Old Apricot Villa”, his home in Los Altos, California.
For the last half century, Hou has been engaged in art creation and established his own unique and innovative “splash ink and color” painting style, which seamlessly integrated both Eastern and Western aesthetics. Hou is regarded as one of the most influential overseas Chinese artists to the transformation of Chinese painting. Both creative and prolific he proved adept in several disciplines, including a role as a politician. Hou also has authored three novels, a history of sociology and a text on the principles of Chinese art. After Communists gained power, Hou left China for British-controlled Hong Kong in 1948. He said a 1954 United States law allowed for 2,000 “famous people” from Hong Kong to come to the United States. Hau was among them.
Traditional Chinese painting usually involves wide-ranging, often very detailed landscapes accompanied by poetry and minimal use of color. Starting in the 1950s, after he moved to the United States, Hou began incorporating bright and varied colors in these landscapes, and the paintings went from being grounded in realism to taking on impressionistic qualities. At the same time, Hou’s work somehow continued to respect time-honored traditions. His subject matter continues to be soothing, idealistic scenes of his homeland from life long ago.
Hou’s works have been exhibited and collected throughout the US and internationally, including Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Jose Museum of Art, National Art Museum of China, Nanjing Museum, Zhejiang Art Museum, and Austria Museum of Modern Art. In 2004, the City of Kunshan in Jiangsu, China built Hou Beiren Art Museum to house 300 pieces of that Hou donated. In 2015, Liaoning Art Museum opened Hou Beiren and Zhang Yunqin Gallery.
Unquestionably one of the most important Chinese painters of the Twentieth Century, Chang Daichien has been compared to Picasso in many exhibition essays and catalogs. Even though the artist lived half of his career in the West and a decade in California, his work remains virtually unknown in the Western art world. This obscurity is especially surprising in light of the high visibility afforded Asian American artists including Isamu Noguchi, Chang Dai-chien’s contemporary (1904-1988), and contemporary artist Hung Liu. Because ink painting is rarely presented in American museums, there is a widespread lack of familiarity about its traditions, aesthetics and practitioners, and hence, little respect for the work. Since few non-Chinese can read inscriptions, rapid or casual appreciation is limited for many.
As a preeminent painter of twentieth-century China, Chang Dai-chien integrated modern sensibilities into traditional Chinese painting. In 1956 he made his first pan-European tour, at which time his eyesight began to deteriorate. During this time, he unexpectedly developed his most innovative painting technique of splashed ink and color. Clouded Mountains exemplifies the splashed ink technique. The poem, inscribed by Chang, reads:
“I was in the mood to paint in the middle of night
My wife and son were awakened from their dreams
Ink overturned and running out of control
Emerging from the summer clouds a celestial mountain.”
In a 2015 interview, Hou was asked how he’d like to be remembered. “Just an artist,” he said.
“Hou Beiren at 100” is open to the public from February 20, 2016 – March 26, 2016. Nanhai Art will host an opening reception on February 20 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.