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HSIA I-FU, A Life in Ink (1925–2016)

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Hsia I-Fu: A Life in Ink (1925–2016)

September 28 – November 17, 2017

 

For Immediate Release —

On the first anniversary of the death of Hsia I-Fu (1925-2016), M. Sutherland Fine Arts has organized a retrospective show of paintings from the last 25 years of this masterful artist’s life.

Martha Sutherland met Hsia in Taiwan in the late 1990s through her graduate school professor, Chu Tsing Li. Although he had never traveled to the United States, the artist immediately welcomed the Mandarin-speaking gallerist and agreed to representation in the U.S. Opportunities for international recognition as a Chinese artist living in Taiwan were rare at the end of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, Hsia’s works can now be found in dozens of major collections in the United States, from teaching museums at Cornell, Princeton and Harvard, to museums and private collections across the Untied States.

Hsia was born in Shandong Province in the 1925 to an educated family . As a youth, he received private painting instruction in both bird and flower and landscape traditions. Even in his later years Hsia would laugh and remark that he owed his exacting, almost obsessionist painting style to the influence of his grandmother, an accomplished lacemaker. Hsia passed the strenuous qualifying exams to enter the prestigious Hangzhou Art Academy in 1947 but because of the political turbulence, he was forced to withdraw. In 1949, he escaped to Taiwan and started from scratch to build a new life in Taipei. He worked in advertising, photography, graphic design, and interior architecture until the late 1970s when he turned to painting full time.

Hsia’s paintings harken back to the monumental landscapes of the Sung masters, such as Li Cheng and Xu Daoning. Yet on careful examination, his brushwork and inkwash style reveal a clearly contemporary vision. His unique brush technique demands thousands of minute strokes over the course of days, and sometimes weeks, to construct massive, weighty rocks and mist-wrapped mountains. The rock forms have a sensuous, anthropomorphic quality with a high contrast of light and dark, more closely aligned to a Western concept of light and shadow. Hsia once remarked that he studied the masterworks of Nanjing 17th Century eccentric master, Gong Xian, in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei. He tried to capture the essence of Gong is his own miniature landscapes and smaller album leaves, then moved up to table top and grand scale works. Hsia’s dense brushwork, whether in a monumental hanging scroll or a miniature album leaf, is unmatched by contemporary ink painters. Around 2007, Hsia turned to a new brush vocabulary of repetitive fine lines for grasses as a counterpoint to the weighty rocks.
Hsia never lost his delight in the natural world, especially the mountains and seascapes of his adopted home of Taiwan. He hiked in the mountains well into his eighties, making rough sketches to enlarge and embellish back in his studio. He and his wife were devout Buddhists who supported religious charities by donating their time and proceeds from painting sales.

A year before the artist’s death, Sutherland ventured to the port city of Keelung with Hsia and several other painters to see a contemporary painting exhibition. Although it was July and the heat and humidity were stifling, Hsia bounded up the stairs of the parking garage with joyful enthusiasm. Even at 90 years of age, Hsia had an infectious joie de vivre. His daughter, Summer Hsia, remembers that her father told the family several days before he died that he wasn’t leaving them forever—that he was simply “going traveling” and would be reunited with them someday soon. Each painting in this exhibition offers a glimpse of Hsia’s indomitable spirit.

[At top, DETAIL – Hsia I-Fu, “Taiwan Mountains”, 1999, Ink on Xuan paper, 69 x 98cm]

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Guo Hua – Defining Contemporary Chinese Painting, March 9 – April 29

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Guo Hua: Defining Contemporary Painting

For Immediate release

M. Sutherland Fine Arts proudly celebrates Asia Week New York 2017 by presenting the work of eleven Chinese artists in an exhibition “Guo Hua: Defining Contemporary Painting” at its new gallery space at 7 East 74th Street (Third Floor).

What makes a work guo hua? The literal meaning is “national painting”. That is, art painted in China and based on traditional Chinese themes of painting. But could the term be used to describe ink painting made by any ethnic Chinese artist working in other parts of Asia or in the West? Might guo hua also include oil painting, collage or another Western medium wielded by a modern Chinese artist whose philosophical viewpoint expresses traditional theories of Chinese painting? Our Asia Week NY 2017 exhibition illustrates the expansive definition of guo hua with the art of eleven artists: Fung Mingchip, Hai Tao, Hsia Ifu, Hsu Kuohuang, Hu Xiangdong, Hung Hsien, Jia Youfu, Liang Quan, Yang Mian, Zhu Daoping and Zhu Jinshi.

In his landscape “Seeking the Way in a Spring Mountain,” 2016 (ink and color wash on paper), Taiwan-based artist Hsu Kuohuang boldly uses splashed ink and color to create an ambiguously “contemporary” rendering of cliff-like peaks flattened against the painting surface in a way that recalls the closely cropped photographs of Edward Weston. The modern viewer would never mistake this for a copy of earlier Chinese work. Yet Hsu’s work remains guo hua because he uses the same mineral powders that ancient Chinese artists brushed into their “blue and green style” landscapes in the 9th century. Hsu’s creative vision is Chinese, but the artist (born 1950) grew up eastern Taiwan, a much freer and less restricted environment than the People’s Republic of China. Although produced in Taiwan, Hsu’s landscapes remain in the scholarly tradition of Chinese classical landscape and, arguably, express more of the traits of guo hua than any other paintings in the show.

Hai Tao, a Nanjing-based painter (born 1959), paints surreal, fantastic images using layers of wash brushed in multiple layers to create abstract, sweeping veils of ink on paper. While Hai uses the traditional brush and ink and mo-gu (no bones) brushwork style that can be traced back to the Southern Song masters, the landscape forms bear a tenuous connection to reality. As inspiration, Hai listens to Western classical music, causing him to fall into a meditative state when painting. Certainly no Southern Song or Qing eccentric painter like Gong Xian, (another source of inspiration to Hai) would have been listening to Mozart in their studio! Hai Tao’s paintings are the result of this mix of unusual inspirations, but still are unquestionably guo hua.

The inclusion of the pastel-toned landscape oil, “Estranged No. 3” by Hu Xiangdong, a Beijing-based painter (born 1961), certainly stretches the definition of guo hua. Hu described the scene parenthetically as a view from Diao Yutai, a former imperial garden in western Beijing (now a state-run guest compound reserved for high-level foreign dignitaries). Although painted in oil on canvas in a pop-like realism as though seen through a torn cellophane wrapping, the view is of a recognizable scenic area, much like the tradition of Ming literati painters brushing well-known scenic views around West Lake. While the media is not ink and color wash on paper but oil on canvas; however, the painter is Chinese, the subject matter is a famous Chinese landscape spot and the work was done in Beijing.

At the far end of the spectrum, looms Zhu Jinshi’s expressionist landscape “The Scenery of Cézanne” (2007), an oil on canvas slathered with a thick impasto that oozes vibrant, luscious color. Born in mainland China in the 1950s, Zhu received no formal training but was tutored clandestinely by an older oil painter during the Cultural Revolution. Zhu eventually went to Berlin where he earned fellowships for further concentrated study. He returned to China to create large abstract canvases, many of them bearing titles that reference European literature, philosophy, and art. “The Scenery of Cézanne” may be European in inspiration, but this homage to the past relates to the practice of ancient guo hua ink painters who honored famous ancient painting masterpieces or passages from Tang or Song poems.

Now celebrating its 18th year as a gallery, M. Sutherland Fine Arts is pleased to display this rare selection of contemporary Chinese paintings during Asia Week New York 2017 at its new location at 7 East 74th Street (Third Floor). Please call 212-249-0428.

 

Guo Hua: Defining Contemporary Chinese Painting

Asia Week New York 2017

Opening Reception Friday, March 10, 6-8pm

OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND MARCH 11-12
Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm

ASIA WEEK HOURS Daily, 11am-5pm

And viewable through Saturday, April 29 by appointment

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Hsia I-fu, (c.1920–2016)

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It is with great sorrow that we share with you the recent passing of Hsia I-fu, who passed away on October 1.  Hsia had a long and rewarding career with numerous exhibitions throughout Asia and internationally, including frequent solo and group shows at M. Sutherland Fine Arts.

Hsia’s work is in the collection of many private collections and museums, among them: the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, The Norton Museum of Art, Florida, the Princeton Art Museum, the Newark Museum of Art and the Sackler Museum at Harvard.

He was loved and admired by many.  His light and talent will be greatly missed.

Additional information at: Hsia I-fu

We’ve Moved!

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After fifteen loving years on 80th street, M. Sutherland Fine Arts has relocated to tony East 74th street, nestled between 5th Avenue and the UES Apple Store.  Please update to find us now at:

7 East 74th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10021

All other contact information remains the same.  Currently the gallery is open by appointment.  Stay tuned for information about our grand re-opening!

HUNG HSIEN: A Singular Brush | Asia Week 2016

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Hung Hsien is the most intriguing artist I’ve shown in the fifteen years of M. Sutherland Fine Arts. With Hung’s exhibition during Asia Week 2016, it is my hope that the art world will take notice and recognize her singular position in the pantheon of modern Chinese painting.

I first met Hung Hsien when I was a graduate student in Lawrence, Kansas, in the late Seventies.  I was astonished by the fantastic forms in her pictures, her striking pastel palette, and the abstract tension of the compositions. The paintings left an indelible impression. In all my years of looking at contemporary Chinese painting while living in Taiwan, Beijing and Hong Kong, I have never seen anything else like this.

The pictures in this exhibition are clearly modernist, but delivered with the brush skills of a classical ink painter. They are “landscapes” but have more affinity to “mod” designs of the Swinging Sixties (think Lava Lamps and Pucci scarves) than the gong bi  (fine line style) bird and flower paintings of Hung’s famed teacher, Prince Pu Hsinyu.

As a teenager in Taipei during the early 1950s, Hung took private painting lessons from Prince Pu Hsinyu, a survivor of the Qing Imperial household, who, to this day, is regarded as one of the great 20th Century Chinese painters. Hung recently explained, “Pu Hsinyu was very old fashioned in his teaching style.  I would be given one of his compositions to copy over and over again, stroke by stroke to perfect the techniques.  Each week, I would bring my homework to him for a formal critique. I studied with him in this manner for years.”

Hung Hsien ultimately took a completely different path, separate from Pu’s other students.  As an art student and teacher in the Chicago area during the late 1950s through the 1970s, Hung was exposed to Abstract Expressionism, which profoundly changed her painting style.  She became unafraid to experiment with abstraction and allowed the traditional rock and water forms to become simply a point of departure for her expressive brush.  Mary Lawson, a University of Chicago-trained art historian, wrote that Hung Hsien’s mature works embodied “the implication of the eternal flow of nature rather than the reality of identifiable forms and texture.”

In “Ocean Rocks” (1970), the only hint of the subject is revealed in the title.  The painting’s strength emerges from the rich coloration and rhythmic brushstroke along with the “inner light” emanating from the compositional push/pull between form and void.  There is a connection to the abstracted landscapes of Shi Tao of 17th Century Yangzhou (Hung’s hometown) but also to modern 20th Century American painters such as Arshile Gorky and Mark Tobey.

Yet, without the years of discipline under Prince Pu Hsinyu’s tutelage, Hung would never have had the technical skill—and confidence—to break free of the limits of traditional ink painting. What other student of Prince Pu can boast of belonging to these subsets of influence?  And similarly, what other Abstract Expressionist can claim the technical rigor of training by Prince Pu? It is an understatement to say that Hung’s creative vision is unique.

Our Asia Week 2016 exhibition draws from only a portion of Hung Hsien’s personal collection of favorite works.  It is our hope that in the future the gallery will show more selections of Hung Hsien’s unique paintings.  Margaret and her husband, T.C. Chang, will be present during AsiaWeek 2016 Open House Weekend.

[at top, Hung Hsien, Ocean Rocks, 1970, ink and color wash on paper, 86 x 43 inches]

 

Hung Hsien: A Singular Brush

EXHIBITION CATALOG (2.1mb)

ASIA WEEK NY 2016, MARCH 12–19

M. Sutherland Fine Arts

55 East 80th Street, Second Floor

New York, NY  10075

 

OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND MARCH 12–13

Saturday and Sunday  11am–5pm

 

HOURS Daily, 11am–5pm

 

(otherwise by appointment)

BETWEEN TWO WATERS – THREE ARTISTS FROM VIRGINIA’S EASTERN SHORE

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BETWEEN TWO WATERS

THREE ARTISTS FROM VIRGINIA’S EASTERN SHORE: Moe Spector, Ann Hayden and Barnaby Conrad

For Immediate release

What happens when three urban artists move to one of the last great, undeveloped spots on the East Coast and respond to the creatures of its forests and tide-swept beaches?

The natural beauty of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is our dirty little secret. Few people are aware of it as they hurtle down Highway 13, passing boarded-up service stations and abandoned farmhouses before crossing the sublime 20-mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the bustling naval port of Norfolk. But halfway down the highway is a small town with an Indian name, Nassawadox, which means “Between Two Waters”. Indeed, this narrow peninsula—10 miles wide at most—is flanked by the Chesapeake Bay to the West and the Atlantic Ocean to the East. Fields of corn and soybeans give way to forests of pine and hardwoods, then to bayside creeks, seaside marshes, and uninhabited barrier islands with pristine beaches. This is not the Hamptons; there is a rough, sobering reality to living among the hardscrabble watermen and farmers who have worked the sea and land for generations.

The three artists showing in the “Between Two Waters” exhibition chose to move to the Eastern Shore after successful careers in art-related fields in big cities like New York, Miami and San Francisco. Now each artist’s creativity is sublimely connected to his/her natural surroundings. Maurice, “Moe” Spector creates sculpture from wood and stone, capturing the essence of a shell, bird or female figure in sensuous, semi-abstracted forms.  Ann Hayden paints wry almost abstract images of birds that are hauntingly beautiful. Barnaby Conrad’s brightly-colored paintings of crabs, owls, and fig trees from his seaside farm vibrate with animist power.

We are all creatures of our environment and of our past experiences; thus I take a view informed by my background in Chinese art history.  Chinese artists believe that a successful landscape brushed in ink has the ability to transport the viewer out of their immediate, urban environment into the pristine wilderness of the painted scene.  In this spirit, M. Sutherland Fine Arts invites the viewer to whiff the salt air, hear the seabirds’ call and experience the primeval stillness of the Eastern Shore of Virginia when you visit the gallery. The show remains up through January 9, 2016.

 

 Exhibition Hours: Nov 11-14, 11am-5pm. Otherwise by appointment.

[TOP, Left] Barnaby Conrad, “Chinese Rooster” , 2015, Oil on canvas, 15 x 10 1/2 inches

[TOP, Middle] Moe Spector, “Cone Shell” , 2015, Marble and black walnut, 18 x 13 x 8 inches

[TOP, Right] Ann Hayden, “We Come from a Military Family”, 2015, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches

Links:

Between Two Waters Exhibition

Moe Spector

Ann Hayden

Barnaby Conrad

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the New York Times gets behind “Contemporary Ink”.

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The New York Times gives us an overview of the Asia Week offerings, at the top of the list of contemporary galleries to see…

Much of the contemporary art exhibited in Asia Week’s galleries involves recent translations of ancient traditions like calligraphy, scroll painting or ceramics. A dealer with a solid roundup of contemporary ink painting is M. Sutherland (55 East 80th Street), including work by Jia Youfu, one of the best-known interpreters of the Song painting tradition.

 

Nearby, they attribute our Liang Quan tea stain painting to another gallery, but we understand: it was a maddening crush of press events yesterday.

Read the complete article here:  NYT: Asia Week Celebrates
Our thanks to NYT Art & Design and Linda Rosier!

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“Vistas in Ink”

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1stDibs’ online magazine ‘Introspective’ has a very nice outline of Chinese landscape works on paper being offered in next week’s Asia Week, New York, with a few nice mentions about us and illustrates a few works that will be on view at M. Sutherland Fine Arts for our “Contemporary Ink” exhibition opening next week!

Have a look at: “Vistas in Ink”

Thanks to Wendy Moonan and all at 1stDibs for the excellent work.