Introducing the Collections 3

Zeng Shanqing (1932-)
Four Horsemen, 1978
Ink and color on paper, 102 x 188 cm.

Born in 1932 in Beijing, Zeng Shanqing was part of the ill-fated generation of intellectuals that was to suffer under the depredations of Maoist excesses during the Cultural Revolution. However, as a very young artist his promise was swiftly recognized and he graduated from the elite Central Academy in Beijing in 1950. Zeng has consistently explored two main themes in his work, horses and figures, and largely draws his inspiration from the simple, nomadic life of the Tibetan high plateau. It was in Tibet that Zeng began to develop the pictorial breadth and vitality of color that provide the vehicle for his humanistic sympathies. Zeng Shanqing’s work has been collected in many important and museums and institutions around the world, including The British Museum, The Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Currently lives and works in New York, USA.

Zeng is a master of capturing, with bold and swift brushstrokes, the grace of Tibet’s stallions, ponies, and other majestic creatures. This work metaphorically highlights the deep yearning for freedom, not only in Tibet but in China herself.

The painting displayed here, Four Horsemen by Zeng Shanqing, is a contemporary work in ink and wash technique. The volume and the spacial relationships are represented through negative space (in Chinese “liubai”, which literally means leave white), the adjustment of the ratio of ink to water, the pressure of pressing the brush on paper, and the way (angle and speed of wiping) of placing the brush on the paper. The composition of this painting is not typical or traditionally designed. The four horsemen are tightly framed in the painting, leaving little space on the upper right corner; however, it shows a very special perspective of looking at this painting from above and the movement of people and horses to show the Chinese nomadic culture and life. Tianchu Wu WS’14


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