Dusk is an exhibition of new works by China-based artist Tu Hongtao that occupy an expressive realm between figural landscapes and abstraction. Tu’s lyrical paintings are inspired by his itinerant journeying—in the mountainous regions of his hometown Chengdu and beyond—and draw on a deep personal knowledge of classical traditions of Chinese painting and poetry.
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Unveiling his most recent body of work, Dusk introduces 10 paintings whose sweeping compositions reflect the artist’s meditations on the rapidly modernizing world.
The exhibition at LGDR is Tu Hongtao’s first solo presentation in Paris, following his European debut at Lévy Gorvy London in 2020. New paintings by Tu will be concurrently on view in LGDR’s Frieze Seoul presentation, and work by the artist will feature in the gallery’s booth at Paris+ par Art Basel.
The title Dusk carries many meanings for the artist. Referencing an 8th century poem by the great Tang dynasty poet Du Fu, the concept of ‘dusk’ became a guiding principle for Tu in thinking about our historical moment and its manifold challenges. It also suggests transience—the obscure yet inspiring state before the total darkness of night, which eventually will give way to dawn and new beginnings.
Premiering in LGDR’s Paris exhibition, Tu’s latest body of work looks to the manifold components of natural landscapes: the intertwining of mountains and flora and processes of organic growth in relation to climate, time, and soil. The panoramic compositions of Mountains and Rivers (2020–22) and The Valley After Rain (2020–21) exemplify Tu’s expert layering of different experiences and impressions. The somber colors reflect the artist’s internal struggle with the global effects of the pandemic as well as personal loss. Tu’s turn to nature as a source of both structure and disruption becomes evident in The Dynamic Pine Branch (2021) and Shifo Mountain (2021-22), which suggest distinct objects and locales yet dissolve into lush abstract rhythms. For Tu, the formations of vegetation and water, valleys and mountains are both convoluted and fluid, obscuring and revealing, capable of undoing the perspectival order of traditional landscape paintings. The resulting paintings bear witness to the non-linear narratives and complex spatio-temporal systems that Tu considers characteristic of existence in the contemporary world. Resolute and majestic, they seek strength from history and nature to consider the foundations of perception and painting.
The influence of Paul Cézanne is felt throughout Dusk. For Tu, “Cézanne was the first painter in the modern era who viewed space as an object… breaking established rules of perspective.” Through painstaking study and experimentation, Tu’s work draws upon multiple art historical frameworks that reach across Eastern and Western traditions. Recognizable in his practice is the avant-garde heritage of Chinese abstractionists such as Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu, and Zao Wou-Ki, synthesized with the painterly innovations of Cézanne (while the influence of such figures as Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, and David Hockney is also coursing through the works). Working from memory and photographs taken during his travels, he translates his encounters with the natural world through a long process of sketching before turning to canvas. Employing a gestural and calligraphic hand, Tu reimagines this embodied experience of space across his paintings, creating a powerful sense of movement that envelopes the viewer.
Installation view of Dusk (LGDR, Paris, September 3 – October 8, 2022). © Tu Hongtao. Courtesy LGDR