[ARTOMITY] Wesley Tongson

Spiritual Mountains: The Art of Wesley Tongson 靈山:唐家偉的藝術世界 / Berkeley Art Museum 美國柏克萊大學藝術博物館 / Jan 12–Jun 12, 2022 2022年1月12日至6月12日 / DeWitt Cheng /


Postmodernist theory has added to the confusion in recent decades. The deaths of the author or artist and of individuality itself have been widely accepted in academia. Jorge Luis Borges parodied the death of originality in his prescient 1939 pseudo-article considering the literary achievement of “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote”. “His admirable ambition,” wrote Borges, “was to produce pages which would coincide – word for word and line for line – with those of Miguel de Cervantes.” And then there are the complexities of digital art, with appropriation and plagiarism shading into each other.

Untitled by Wesley Tongson, from the Mountains of Heaven series, Ink and color on board, 72 x 97 cm, 2000. Courtesy BAMPFA.


The Hong Kong painter Wesley Tongson (1957-2012) exemplifies the synthesis of tradition and innovation. In 2018, the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco presented The Journey, a small but impressive exhibition of his work. Curator Catherine Maudsley noted that Tongson’s ink paintings were grounded in the natural motifs and calligraphy of classical Chinese painting, but enlivened by daring abstract expressionist brushstrokes, ink splattering, marbling, resists, decalcomania (pressing painted pieces of paper onto the surface and peeling them off) and even painting with fingers and hands. She cites his training by Gu Qingyao in Toronto and Huang Zhongfang in Hong Kong, but concludes that “Tongson’s journey was primarily a solitary one”. Hongkongers will need no introduction to the artist, whose genius was recognized early in his hometown.


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