A LIVING TRADITION: CHINESE INK AND COLOR PAINTINGS FROM THE BERNINGHAUSEN COLLECTION
University Art Gallery (The University of the South) / 68 Georgia Ave., Sewanee, TN October 27, 2017 - December 15, 2017
John and Alice Berninghausen fell in love with modern Chinese ink painting during their first extended stay in the People’s Republic of China in 1987-88. Over the course of the following two decades, they assembled an impressive collection of paintings, twenty-four of which are on display in the University Art Gallery from Oct. 27- Dec. 15. The paintings, all from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, are the expression of a fertile period of revival and innovation for ink painting and calligraphy in China. As the country emerged from the strictures of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), artists were able to pursue their practices with fewer political constraints, and increasing freedom to experiment with subject matter and form. A playful return to the conventions and models of the pre-Communist past, freed from propagandistic and nationalistic demands, was an important expression of that new liberty. The artists represented in the exhibition are grounded in the traditions of Chinese painting, working within the canonical genres of landscape, bird-and-flower, and figure painting, and employing the medium of brush, ink and color on paper. They work, though, in hybrid styles, possible again in China only after 1979, experimenting with techniques for applying ink and with whimsical or unexpectedly modern subjects.