Ora-Ora is pleased to present Winter Romance, a double exhibition by contemporary artists Liu Qi and Pan Wenxun. The exhibition, on view from 21 January to 6 March, kick starts the gallery’s programming for the New Year presenting positivity and passion with Romanticism.
The Romantic movement also known as the Romantic Style and Romanticism, is a literary period spanning roughly from 1790–1850 and characterized by a celebration of nature and the common man, a focus on individual experience, an idealization of women, and an embrace of isolation and melancholy. This period dominated Western literature and arts in the late 18th century, and highlighted the link between art and romance. Philosopher and historian Isaiah Berlin discussed the roots of Romanticism in a speech he drafted, saying: "I think we can be absolutely certain that the Romantic movement was not only a movement about art, but it was the first movement in Western history in which art dominated the rest of life, in which art was the ruler of everything. In a sense, this is the essence of the Romantic movement."
In the East, Romanticism encompasses a broader sense of indulgence and poetic fantasy; in Eastern art, it is embodied through white space and poetry, whether with verse or strokes. Both Liu Qi and Pan Wenxun explore their idea of romance through ink paintings which depict their individual artistic methods and shared values of devotion and skill.
Through new works, Pan's interpretation of romance is based on her adaptation of ancient traditional art and appreciation of nature. As unadulterated and innocent representations of things that are pure and vibrant, Pan uses her brush to outline her unique and divine spiritual world, creating a poetic softness to her subject matters, usually focused around children, woodland animals and flora.
In her work Piedmont, a seated deer in the forest is enveloped with warm swirls of colour showcasing her relaxed brushwork and technique. The Chinese word ‘Lu’ (麓) means the deer's habitat, such as ‘at the foot’ of a mountain in the woods, by the water, and or surrounded by grass, hence the title. The piece is also a representation of tranquillity, a Buddhist culture's spiritual animal of compassion, and an individual spirituality of life and its meaning – which is Pan’s romantic approach of independence from the world as we know it.
Liu’s romance is distant, voyeuristic and almost transient, as he aims to capture snapshots of fleeting moments in contemporary life. Presenting an insight into his visual world of physicality and emotion, Liu’s style, utilises the blackness of ink, is inspired from various eras and regions, and isolates his subjects mainly people and objects, that emanate a sense of calm and contentment, against a black background - with a thin white outline separating them, almost elevating them to a level where they seem to float, isolated in a vacuum.
Love, is an expression of the sincerest emotion: of a man and a woman in an embrace. This is a constant theme seen throughout art history, with the likes of Gustav Klimt, Marc Chagall and René Magritte, amongst others, incorporating their unique interpretations of it. However, Liu's depiction is different. He shows the motions of an ordinary couple, a simple colour scheme and structure; his lovers are not stylized or glamorised, they are not beautiful or even visible; their love is portraying just that: love.
Romanticism is difficult to define. Philosopher Herbert Reed and art historian Kenneth Clark have argued that it is a perpetual state of mind that can be seen everywhere. As it developed into the 1800s, a value began to be placed around it, people realized that beauty was not the same as romance, and they began to accept tragedy, mistakes, and conflicting values; and in turn, changed their interest to distant things, time, and places - things that may not have been as beautiful as previously perceived. After the changes and situations encountered in 2020, the hope is that with the start of this year, healing and warmth, enchantment and intrigue will persevere, much like this exhibition, Winter Romance does.