"Beams of Contentment", 2007
Our Enlightened Artist of the Week: Tian Xu Tong
Whatever terms you may associate with the school of Mahayana Buddhism known as Zen - calmness, tranquillity, peace, oneness - they are also traits that immediately come to mind on viewing the unmistakable ink paintings of Tian Xu Tong, the Chinese artist who was born in Beijing in 1962.
In the early 1980s, the young Tian studied at the Central Academy of Craft and Design, and even then, had already established a niche for ink painting. Looking at the artist's work, it is clear why he has long seen ink as his saviour, the resulting monochromic paintings exuding the still, natural, pure, elementary feel that has always been synonymous with Zen philosophy.
Gaze upon a Tian Xu Tong artwork, and you are sure to be transfixed by its deceptive simplicity, bearing such oddly memorable motifs as mountain tops, boats on water and meditating monks. These distinctively abstract pieces in clean, often white space take your imagination on a lulling, even leisurely journey. There is so much paradox in Tian's pieces - seeming in many ways straightforward, but also projecting the strength and presence of mind of the artist himself.
If one ever doubted Tian's commitment to Zen and its place in his artwork, one would only need to listen to the man himself, who commented in 2007: "It is said that understanding Zen is like appreciating tea as Zen consists of varying flavours as well. And this applies to painting, too. Since my deviation from using colours abstractly and densely thin black and white lines in 2000, I have been exploring how to express the meaning and my interest in Zen."
Tian has long been especially enchanted by the paintings of the Song Dynasty, scrutinising symbols and contemplating their sense of perfection, stillness and harmony as he seeks to translate such profound qualities into his own pieces, which exhibit a very similar calmness and minimalism for all of the spontaneity and boldness of their brushstrokes.
To suggest that such high-minded intentions have not brought Tian Xu Tong great acclaim and success as an artist would, of course, be very wrong, with his works having attracted the admiration of professional critics in China, Hong Kong and the UK, in addition to featuring in art collections around the world. In addition, he has exhibited in Singapore, Hong Kong and his native Beijing.
If there is one artist who has most certainly taught us about the immense amount achievable with a mere couple of brushstrokes, it simply has to be Tian Xu Tong, whose belief in helping to make our world just that bit more tranquil is beyond doubt.
Namaste Addictees – we hope you enjoyed our blog. Now, go forth and meditate on this wonderful artist.