Hai Tao: New Paintings
The youngest of a family of intellectuals in Nanjing, Hai Tao (born 1959) was immersed in the scholarly world as a small boy. Nanjing, still referred to by artists by the traditional name, Jinling, has been a center for literati pursuits in China for thousands of years. Hai Tao graduated from the Nanjing Art Academy and worked as a designer at the Nanjing Film Studio. He continued to paint in his spare time and then, several decades ago, he completely dedicated himself to painting.
Hai Tao’s landscape style fully embodies the scholar painter’s ideal of mountains of the mind. Hai brushes his mountains through the painstaking method of layering strokes and wash, or jimofa, that are built up over time to form strange and wonderful rock and water views. The landscapes consist of soft, intertwining, overlapping forms, void of any human existence or vegetation, as if monumentalscale scholar rocks, revered for their odd, tortured beauty. The effect is nothing like one sees in nature but it is evocative of not only the spirit of Nature but also the soul of the artist.
Hai explains that his inspirations are diverse. He not only uses the brushwork techniques of 17th Century Jinling School eccentric, Gong Xian, as a starting point but also listens to Western classical music while painting. This spiritual stirring from music is reflected in the rhythmic composition of his fantastic landscapes. The words of the Late Ming Dynasty critic, Tang Zhiqi, could be used to describe Hai’s contemporary genius:
“When painting landscapes, the most important thing is to reveal the true characters of the mountains and water. Thus, the mountain will be vital as jumping, as sitting, as lifting, as bending; thereby the mountains’ characters are naturally fused with that of the painter, the mountains’ emotions are also fused with those of the painter…”
Modern writers have praised Hai Tao’s work. The Wall Street Journal art critic, Lance Esplund, described Hai’s paintings:
“Swirling, silken and fluid—part Art Nouveau, part Georgia O’Keeffe and part fairy-tale ice-castle—Mr. (Hai) Tao’s vistas place us floating on thin air amid crystalline mountain peaks.”
Roberta Smith, of The New York Times, wrote in response to Hai’s inaugural show at M. Sutherland Fine Arts:
“For further adventures in contemporary Chinese ink painting, …works by… Hai Tao are welcome exceptions to the garish contemporary work.”
Hai Tao is currently a member of the Nanjing Painting Academy and has won numerous awards for his work in China. He has also participated in international shows in Australia and the United States. M. Sutherland Fine Arts is pleased to exhibit a selection of Hai Tao’s recent works for Asia Week 2014.