Hong Ling on contemporary Chinese art and his exhibition at SOKA

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Who has been your greatest influence on your style of painting? Why have they influenced you so?

Chinese landscape painters including Huang Gongwang, Huang Binhong and Fan Kuan from the 13th to 19th century have  been a profound influence on my later work. My work places a great emphasis on the Chinese philosophy and aesthetics where humanity and heaven (nature) is consistent and united as one. I’m hoping to convey the Chinese aesthetics and the universe through my landscape oil painting, a medium with traditional roots in the west. JMW Turner and Amedeo Modigliani are two international artists I admire greatly. I also admire the contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing for his ability to combine the sensibilities and motifs of East and West.

 

What is the message behind your works? Are the messages within your pieces directed at someone in particular, or just for society to think about?

When an artist completes his work, he has already passed on the power of interpretation to the audience. Most people who like my work are fans of nature. They are yearning to go to the mountains to experience the livelihood of life. As for myself, I am more of a country man. When I paint, I often bring in my fondness of nature into the artwork, but obviously, I wouldn’t want to set any limitations for the audience. On the contrary, I’d like to encourage them to see my work with an open heart and mind.

 

What is your favourite work that you have created to date?

Well, there are so many. Each of them is distinctive in their own way, for example, “Snow Winter” is one of my personal favourites, painted back in 1991. It was not until then I started to develop the painting style I use today. It was a lonely journey with very few companions and supporters. Therefore, this work is a constant reminder for me. Looking back I am pleasantly surprised by the courage and perseverance I had twenty years ago.

 

Do you think it is important to maintain aesthetics characteristic of Chinese culture or is innovation becoming increasingly important?

I recently watched a documentary on 85 year old sushi master Jiro Ono. It mentioned that one of the selecting standards for a Michelin star restaurant is whether it is able to continue its own cultural tradition, and at the same time be innovative, no matter which country the restaurant is originally from. I think this same theory also applies to the characteristics of Chinese culture. Heritage and innovation are of equal importance. This is why I like to read as much as I can and to go and see other artist’s work by going to exhibitions and museums. I’m always keen to try new ways of working, it is something that is very important to me.

 

Do you think a fusion of Western and non-Western art will become a trend? Does this combination make art more accessible to a wider audience range?

We live in a multi-cultural society and it is only with an open mind that we can fully experience the richness of humanity. This explains why Western art attracts huge audiences in the East, for example, whenever there is a retrospective show of Pablo Picasso or the impressionist masters in China, it always attracts many visitors; and vice versa, when the Chinese Terracotta Warrior exhibition was on show at the British Museum, it attracted a large amount of European visitors.

Art transcends language barriers and nationality differences.

 

In an increasingly commercialised market, how does an artist maintain integrity?

I think it’s important to do what you are good at as an artist, and to do it well, without being affected by the market.  As I see it, the artist’s work is to create artwork, and as for the marketing and the management side, I leave that to my gallery Soka Art. I have been working with Soka Art for over thirteen years, which sets the record for the longest working relationship between a Chinese artist and an Asian gallery.

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