Wang Mansheng: a journey through art

Wang Mansheng, Hudson Driftwood 2 (2019), ink on paper. Courtesy of Connecticut College.

If – or more likely, when – you walk into Shain Library this fall and look to your right once you pass the glass doors, you’ll see the Charles Chu Room. Once you enter this room, there is an air of calm and serenity, and the atmosphere is lighter: it is as if you are stepping into a whole other place. The exhibition is at the source of this feeling of transition: the exhibition entitled Wang Mansheng: From the Silk Road to the Hudson River. The exhibition features sketches, calligraphy, ink paintings, photographs and prints by renowned artist Wang Mansheng, who has exhibited in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and the United States, and whose works are part of the collections of the Philadelphia Museum. of Art, Yale Art Museum, Brooklyn Museum, and more. Wang’s artwork in the Charles Chu Room is lit with a warm glow so that the dark ink, clear brushstrokes, and intricate detail stand out on the scrolls and paper.

The first pieces by Wang Mansheng included in the exhibition, Quici Wall Figure Studies (1986), Tang Studies (1986), and Dunhuang Mural 1, 2 postage stamp (1994) are all taken from his visits to the caves along the Silk Road. In Wang’s own words, his art is “a response to the natural environment” in which he lives, and these studies, done with precise, plunging ink strokes on paper, show his thought process as he was examining the mural with his own eyes. . Also on the Silk Road in Dunhuang, Wang encountered preserved woodcarvings ranging from revered treatises to medical prescriptions and military notes. He presents them in his room Dunhuang Inscribed Wood Chip Studies (2013). The authors and artists of these slips of wood were anonymous and differed greatly in age, class, and style of writing; but despite this, there was a connection between art, as Wang Mansheng puts it. People, regardless of their age or class, shared the same culture: “… they lived in the same region, they drank the same wine, they spoke with the same accent. The variety and similarity of wood the leaflets show that no matter where you are, there are things in your homeland that bind you and everyone who lives and lived there, always together.

In my first year seminar class – Chinese Art Comes to America – with Professor Yibing Huang, who is also the curator of this exhibition, I discovered Wang Mansheng’s roots both on the Silk Road and on the Hudson River and how he managed to connect the two of them and take root in both continents. Wang’s journey continued from China across the country to Connecticut. Here he painted his series of bamboo paintings – my personal favorite pieces of his – called Rock and Bamboo (2011), In the rain (2012), In the fog (2012), and In the wind (2012). These pieces show a bamboo that Wang planted in his own garden for the purpose of studying traditional ink painting and nut ink. The same bamboo is depicted over the seasons and time: in rain, mist and wind, as the titles suggest. In the rain represents bamboo leaves falling under the weight of rain droplets. In the fog shows bamboo shrouded in mist with light gray ink strokes in the background. And finally, In the wind shows the sheets tilted steeply to the right side of the paper, as if the wind was real and blowing forcefully from the left side of the paper. In all of these paintings there are clear, bold, black brush strokes for the bamboo in focus, and light gray brush strokes for the bamboo in the background, successfully depicting the depth and character of these works. serene. Wang Mansheng’s act of growing bamboo in his garden on the Hudson River brings together his two cultures and origins into one, creating an infinitely healthier and more meaningful work of art. Wang Mansheng has found his roots on both continents, and these roots ignite the passion and belonging to fuel his art. In Professor Huang’s own words: “Once it is rooted, it becomes winged and free.”

Like many things, Wang’s exposure was cut short by the onset of the pandemic. The original exhibit was scheduled to run from February 5 to April 8, 2020 and drew many viewers until the pandemic struck in March 2020. It was relocated to the Charles Chu Room and runs from August 24 to October 31, 2021 and includes four pieces recently purchased by the College for the Chu-Griffis Asian Art Collection. I encourage you to take a step into this exhibition and immerse yourself in the work of an artist whose collection reflects his journey across continents and, above all, portrays the true meaning of home.

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