What You Need to Know: On view through August 20, 2023, the Artizon Museum in Tokyo is presenting a group exhibition comprised of both historical and contemporary abstract artworks. “Abstraction: The Genesis and Evolution of Abstract painting / Cézanne, Fauvism, Cubism, and on to Today” takes an overarching look at this history and trajectory of, as well as makes a prediction on, the future of abstraction in artmaking. The central and largest gallery of the exhibition features two large-scale works by Chinese artist Lou Zhenggang, highlighting their unique, contemporary interpretation of traditional calligraphy techniques and modern abstraction. The inclusion marks the increased interest in the artist’s work, as well as its significance in discussions surrounding abstraction and painting today.
About the Artist: Originally from Heillongjjang, China, Lou Zhenggang (b. 1966) learned traditional calligraphy and painting from her father beginning at a young age. She was recognized as an exceptional talent in the calligraphy community starting in the 1970s and continued to garner renown for her work through the 1980s. The artist relocated to Japan in 1986, where she began and continues to promote Chinese culture both in the regional and international art scenes. Over the course of her career, the artist expanded her practice to include calligraphy-inspired painting, drawing inspiration from both Eastern and Western practices, such as from the work of the Impressionists, as well as the natural world. “The starry sky by Van Gogh, the sunset that Munch captured vividly, and the transition of the sun and its reflection on the surface of water depicted by Monet, all these became even more profound in no small part due to the incorporation of water. Learning from these seminal figures, I was moved to weave every element surrounding me into my canvas,” Lou said.
Why We Like It: Lou has an aptitude for capturing fleeting moments in her work, specifically related to light, water, wind, and the infinite small changes that occur as part of the natural environment. The paintings in the present exhibition illustrate the artist’s calligraphic roots, completed in white and black of varying opacity. Their compositions are evocative of sea spray, the horizon line over the ocean, and the wind, with each canvas’s overlong dimension allowing for a visually immersive viewer experience similar to what is found in nature. Juxtaposed with other works within the show, Lou exercises a highly refined, parred-down version of abstraction, exploring the basic tenets of form and color. The result is a meditative, contemplative visual endeavor that highlights the artist’s unique skill and background.