Between the Mountains

Between the Mountains brings together contemporary artists who depict Chinese landscapes through the medium of ink. For the past two thousand years, ink has been the predominant medium in Chinese art and calligraphy. The Chinese word for landscape, shanshui (山 水), can be literally translated as “mountain-water.” Between the Mountains explores the way a selection of contemporary Chinese artists investigates the enduring concerns and symbols of shanshui (mountain-water landscapes), while also engaging with urgent contemporary issues such as increased urbanization, globalization, climate change, and the role of culture and tradition in the modern world.
Between the Mountains is the capstone project for Serena Hildebrandt ’20, the 2018–19 Carole Marchand ’57 Endowed Intern. The internship is a yearlong opportunity to introduce a Skidmore junior to post-graduate life by providing academic and practical experience in one or more areas of museum work during the junior year as well as the summer term.
Exhibition Name
Between the Mountains
Exhibition Type
Student Curated
Group Exhibitions
Place
Winter Gallery
Dates
Jan 25, 2020 - Jul 5, 2020
Curators
Between the Mountains is curated by Serena Hildebrandt ’20, the 2018–19 Carole Marchand ’57 Endowed Intern.
Artists
Irene Chou, Zhang Daqian, Li Hua-sheng, Yun-Fei Ji, Li Keran, Qiu Mai (Michael Cherney), Yang Yongliang
Student Staff
Serena Hildebrandt
Exhibitions Assistant, Tang Guide, Student Advisory Council, past: 2018-19 Carole Marchand Endowed Intern

Between the Mountains explores how a selection of contemporary Chinese artists investigate the enduring concerns and symbols of shanshui while engaging with urgent contemporary issues such as increased urbanization, globalization, climate change, and the role of culture and tradition in the modern world.

View or download the checklist here!

Extended Artwork Labels

English | 中文
A long painting of a river scene in a mountainous and tree-lined landscape with images of human influence such as a cruise ship, a crashed plane, and people in hazmat suits.
Yun-Fei Ji, Bon Voyage, 2002, Ink and mineral pigment on mulberry paper, Tang Teaching Museum collection, gift of Peter Norton, 2015.26.8
At a distance, Yun-Fei Ji’s rendering of the Yangtze River resembles a traditional ink painting from the Song dynasty (960–1279). However, upon closer inspection, images of contemporary life emerge. A crashed helicopter, abandoned cars, and an empty cart appear along the mountainside. Rural villagers carrying heavy baskets scramble up a rocky path, while on the opposite bank, figures in hazmat suits conduct tests on the river water.
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Oversized creatures, including a grasshopper, a heron, and a water monster line the banks, dwarfing the nearby figures and vehicles. In combining these elements, Ji’s Bon Voyage comments on the detrimental impact of humanity on the natural world; the outcomes of pollution and industrialization on both humans and wildlife.
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20
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A detailed black and white cityscape/landscape including waterfalls, mountains, and buildings.
Yang Yongliang, Before the Rain, 2010, video, courtesy of the artist
Yang Yongliang’s animated video resembles a traditional Chinese shanshui painting, with trees, waterfalls, mountain crevices, ink-color tones, and a red seal. However, these elements are actually constructed from a digital collage of urban design elements. What look like the staggering edges of a mountain is a surface layered with concrete buildings and scaffolding, and the trees are composed of electrical towers and cranes. By replacing the Chinese landscape with an equally beautiful yet congested cityscape, Yang Yongliang comments on China’s fast-paced urban development and unbridled modernization. The artist states:
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…the landscape suggests the imitation of the traditional art forms of my childhood, which have gradually dis-appeared as the city and I have evolved. The city, the landscape—I love them and hate them at the same time. If I love the city for its familiarity, I hate it even more for the staggering speed at which it grows and engulfs the environment. If I like traditional Chinese art for its depth and inclusiveness, I hate its retrogressive attitude. The ancients expressed their sentiments and appreciation of nature through landscape painting. As for me, I use my own landscape to criticize reality as I perceive it.

—Serena Hildebrandt ’20

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Detail of a handscroll with mostly black space and a silvery/white moon in the middle third of the horizontal work.
Michael Cherney (Qiu Mai), New Primordial Chaos, 2014, photograph on mitsumata paper on handscroll, courtesy of the artist
Michael Cherney’s New Primordial Chaos is inspired by an ancient scroll by Zhu Derun (1294–1365), a Yuan-period calligrapher, painter, and poet who depicted his Hunlun tu, (translated as “Primordial Chaos” or the “Cosmic Circle”) in the mid-fourteenth century. Hunlun is a reference to the Daoist cosmological concept of the undifferentiated matter that formed the cosmos. In Zhu’s work, a perfect circle appears between a poem and a sprawling tree on a bed of rocks. The verse reads:
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Primordial chaos is not square but round, not round but square. Before the appearance of heaven and earth, there were no forms; yet forms existed. After the appearance of heaven and earth forms existed but became undefined, their constant expansion and contraction, furling and unfurling making them beyond measure.

Referencing Chinese landscape copyist traditions, Cherney appropriates Zhu’s scroll by superimposing a photograph of the Beijing sun precisely within Zhu’s circle. Whereas Zhu’s Primordial Chaos alludes to the ancient Chinese belief in the original chaos, the grand emptiness out of which cosmic bodies emerged, Cherney’s New Primordial Chaos revisits this idea within the modern context of a polluted world—a human-created chaos that visibly obscures and deforms the sun.
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20

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Two photographs side-by-side of young, Asian children, one boy and one girl, wearing white shirts and red ties with painted faces depicting traditional Chinese motifs.
Huang Yan, Brother and Sister No. 1 and 2, 2006, Chromogenic print, Tang Teaching Museum collection, promised gift of the Jack Shear Collection of Photography
Huang Yan uses the body as a canvas for his traditional landscape paintings. He highlights the powerful relationship between traditional ink painting and Chinese identity by photographing bodies adorned with mountains, animals and flowers. Here he paints on the faces of two children, blurring the lines between photography, painting, and performance. Huang Yan was among a generation of artists influenced by the Communist Regime’s oppressive legacy of political and artistic controls.
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Brother and Sister illustrates an urgent post-Cultural Revolution desire to reassert the importance of ink art as a symbol of artistic, philosophical, and social heritage in China—as Yan says, addressing the “interrelated sense of identity of the Chinese.”
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20
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Three light, irregular-shaped rocks, each on their own wooden pedestal.
Artist unknown, Three Scholar’s rocks, n.d., stone on wood, Tang Teaching Museum collection, promised gift of Susan M. Yecies
Scholars’ rocks (gongshi) are naturally occurring rocks originally collected by Chinese scholars. Scholars saw them as a source of inspiration, because like a landscape painting, they represented a microcosm of nature. During the Tang dynasty (618–907) four aesthetic criteria for scholar’s rocks were determined: thinness, openness, perforations, and wrinkling. Traditional and contemporary artists meditate on them in their studios, inspired by their abstract qualities and the imagery they evoke.
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They are prized for how they have been sculpted through erosion and are emblematic of the transformational processes of nature. Their forms suggest mountainscapes and are appreciated for appearing to resemble animals, figures, or mythic creatures.
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20
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A long tan paper scroll with an abstract, black and white, ink painting in the center of the scroll hung on a dark blue wall.
Irene Chou, Infinity Landscape, c. 1985–1989, ink and pigment on paper mounted on painting scroll, Collection of Johnson Chang
Irene Chou was beginning her career as a journalist when she fled from Shanghai to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution. She became a student of the Lingnan School of painting, beginning her practice by making repeated images of trees and mountains as a way to connect with nature. From these studies of the earth, she created complex abstracted compositions that resembled space. Her Infinite Landscapes are rooted in a desire to explore the connections between humans and the cosmos—the energies that connect us and formed the world.
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The root-like patterns she creates are made with a thick extended stroke that appears in vortex-like circles. Infinity Landscape reflects Chou’s symbolic recognition and knowledge of Taoism, a philosophy that began through observance of the natural world and teaches a desire for cosmic balance found through self-reflection and following the rhythms of the universe, the “Tao”.
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20
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A long tan paper scroll with an ink painting of two herons in a simple village-scape.
Li Hua-sheng, Two Herons by the Water, 1989, ink and pigment on paper on scroll, Collection of Johnson Chang

I use ink, brush, and paper; they are the tools of my work. They are difficult to master and I will never give them up. Working with them is arduous, like the turning of prayer beads and prayer wheels . . . You must control yourself . . . Then you become tranquil, at peace with yourself.
—Li Hua-sheng

Li Hua-sheng was a classically-trained traditional ink painter whose work became increasingly abstract throughout his career. He painted in secret during the Cultural Revolution. Following the immense changes in the 1980s, he travelled to the United States and was inspired by the abstract paintings he saw.

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Throughout the rest of his career, he focused on reducing the traditional ink style to its most basic form, following the Buddhist notion of “experimenting wholeheartedly with emptiness and an empty mind.” In this rare early work, Li Hua-sheng’s progression towards abstraction is beginning to evolve, and can be seen in the way that he uses negative space and grid-like strokes for the trees, mountains, and houses. Li’s passion for traditional shanshui paintings is evident in the way that he minimizes organic shapes into lines, their most basic, primary forms.
—Serena Hildebrandt ’20
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A long painting of a river scene in a mountainous and tree-lined landscape with images of human influence such as a cruise ship, a crashed plane, and people in hazmat suits.
季云飞, 《一路顺风》, 2002, 水墨、矿物颜料、桑皮纸, Tang Teaching Museum collection (Peter Norton) 捐赠, 2015年8月26日
在远处看, 季云飞对长江的描绘颇似宋代(960–1279)的传统水墨画。但是, 仔细观察, 就会发现当代生活的形象。一架坠毁的直升机, 多辆废弃的汽车和一个空的手推车出现在山腰上。提着沉甸甸篮子的村民们爬上一条山路, 而在河对岸, 身着防护服的人员在对河水进行测试
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蚱蜢、苍鹭和水怪等超大生物排列于两岸, 衬得附近的人物和车辆格外矮小。结合这些元素, 季云飞的《一路顺风》评点了人类对自然世界, 以及污染与工业化对人类和野生动植物造成的影响。
—乔安娜
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A detailed black and white cityscape/landscape including waterfalls, mountains, and buildings.
杨泳梁, 《雨前》, 2010, 视频 由艺术家提供
杨泳梁的动画视频就像中国传统的山水画, 其中有树木、瀑布、山缝、水墨色调和红印章。但是, 这些元素实际上是由城市设计元素的数位拼贴构成。看起来山峦交错的边缘是上面有混凝土建筑物和脚手架层的表面, 树木由电动塔楼和起重机组成。杨泳梁用同样美丽而拥挤的城市景观代替中国山水, 评点了中国快速发展的城市化和无限制的现代化。艺术家指出:
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. . . 该景观模仿了我童年时代的传统艺术形式, 但随着城市和我本人的发展, 这些形式逐渐消失了。城市, 是一种让我又爱又恨的景观。如果说我因为熟悉而爱这座城市, 我又因为其增长和吞噬环境的惊人速度而更恨它。如果说我因为中国传统艺术的深度和包容性而喜欢它, 我又讨厌它的倒退态度。古人通过山水画抒发了对自然的感情和欣赏。对于我来说, 我会根据自己的理解, 以我自己的景观来批评现实。
—乔安娜

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Detail of a handscroll with mostly black space and a silvery/white moon in the middle third of the horizontal work.
Michael Cherney (秋麦), 《新浑沦图》, 2014, 手卷三桠纸摄影本, 艺术家提供
Michael Cherney的《新浑沦图》, 的创作灵感来自朱德润 (1294–1365) 的一幅古代卷轴。朱德润是元代书法家、画家和诗人, 在十四世纪中叶创作了《浑沦图》(译作“Primordial Chaos”或“Cosmic Circle”)。浑沦指代道家关于形成宇宙的未分化物质的宇宙学概念。在朱德润的作品中, 坡石突凸, 石间屹立蔓生树木一棵, 旁有诗一首, 其间画一圆圈。其诗曰:
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浑沦图, 浑沦者不方而圆, 不圆而方。先天地生者, 无形而形存。后天地生者, 有形而形亡。 一翕一张是, 岂有绳墨之可量哉。

Cherney 借用了中国山水临摹传统, 通过在朱德润的圆圈内恰好叠加一张北京太阳的照片来占用朱德润的卷轴。 朱德润的《浑沦图》暗示了中国古代对原始浑沦的信仰, 即宇宙出生于浑沦的空虚之中, 而Cherney的《新浑沦图》则在被污染的世界的现代背景下重新审视了这一思想, 人为造成的浑沦使太阳明显模糊并变形。
—乔安娜

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Two photographs side-by-side of young, Asian children, one boy and one girl, wearing white shirts and red ties with painted faces depicting traditional Chinese motifs.
黄岩, 《兄弟姐妹 (No. 1 和 2) 》, 2006, 显色印刷, Tang Teaching Museum collection, Jack Shear 摄影收藏承诺捐赠
黄岩以人体为画布, 进行传统山水画创作。他通过拍摄装饰有山脉、动物和花朵的人体, 突显了传统水墨画与中国身份之间的强力联系。在这幅作品中, 他在两个孩子的脸上绘画, 模糊了摄影、绘画和表演之间的界限。黄岩所在的这一代艺术家们曾受到共产党政权的压迫和艺术控制。
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黄岩说,《兄弟姐妹》表明了文革后的, 即重申水墨艺术作为中国艺术、哲学和社会遗产象征的重要性的迫切愿望, 以解决“中国人相互关联的身份认同感”。
—乔安娜
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Three light, irregular-shaped rocks, each on their own wooden pedestal.
艺术家不详, 文人石, 未注明日期, 木上石, Tang Teaching Museum collection, Susan M. Yecies 承诺捐赠
文人石(公石)是天然存在的岩石, 最初由中国文人们收集。文人们将它们视为灵感的源泉, 因为它们就像一幅山水画一样, 代表了自然的缩影。在唐代 (618–907) 期间, 确定了文人石的四个审美标准: 瘦、透、漏和皱。传统及当代艺术家在工作室中对着它们沉思, 并从中受到它们的抽象特质和所唤起形象的启发。
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它们因受侵蚀成形, 而备受赞誉, 象征着自然的转换过程。它们的形式显示着山景, 且因看起来像动物、人物或神话生物而受到赞赏。
—乔安娜
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A long tan paper scroll with an abstract, black and white, ink painting in the center of the scroll hung on a dark blue wall.
周绿云, 《无尽景观》, 约1985–1989 画轴水墨、颜料画, 张颂仁收藏
周绿云最初的职业是记者。文革期间, 从上海逃往香港。她师从岭南派, 刚开始时反复绘画树木和山脉的形象, 以便与自然本质联系起来。通过对大地的研究, 她创作了类似于空间的复杂抽象成分。她的《无尽景观》植根于探索人类与宇宙之间联系的愿望, 这是将我们联系在一起并构成世界的能量。她创作的类根图案以粗长的笔法画出, 该笔法以漩涡状圆圈呈现。
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《无尽景观》反映了周绿云对道家的符号的认识和理解, 道家是一门始于观察自然世界的哲学, 它通过自省并遵循宇宙的节奏“道”来表 达对宇宙平衡的渴望。
—乔安娜
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A long tan paper scroll with an ink painting of two herons in a simple village-scape.
李华生, 《水边的两只苍鹭》, 1989, 卷轴水墨、颜料画, 张颂仁收藏

我用水墨、画笔和纸张。它们是我工作的工具, 难以掌握, 但我永远不会放弃。使用这些工具工作起来很艰巨, 就像转动念珠和转经筒一样 . . . 必须控制自己 . . . 然后整个人变得安静, 与自己和平相处。
—李华生

李华生是一位受过传统训练的传统水墨画家, 其作品随着其职业生涯的发展变得越来越抽象。他在文革期间偷偷作画。经历了20世纪80年代的巨大变革之后, 他前往美国, 并受到了其所见的抽象画启发。

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在他的剩余职业生涯中, 他注重将传统水墨风格还原为最基本的形式, 遵循佛家的“完全体验空虚和虚心”的观念。在这幅罕见的早期作品中, 李华生的抽象化正在开始形成, 这一点可从他对树木、山脉和房屋使用负空间和网格状笔法的方式中看出来。李华生对传统山水画的热爱体现在他将有机形状简化为该形状最基本、初级的形式, 即线条。
—乔安娜
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