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Art Discussion Group - Malta



by E. V. Borg

They seem shadows, ghosts or phantoms and have decadent or consumptive properties. It is a deconstruction of matter to capture the essence, the spirit or soul through dynamic movement without losing primordial form: hence the title ‘Persistence of Form’.

He Ping’s expression is a fusion of Chinese calligraphy and a brand of European and American Abstract Expressionism the direct result of a continuous cultural and artistic exchange between the West and the Orient. 

His expression is spontaneous and instinctive as in gestural, automatic and action painting. It is an effusion of emotion, feeling and sentiment in line with the concepts of Pierre Soulages, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hartung and especially and particularly the calligraphic Frans Kline. In the West the movement towards abstraction was started by Wassily Kandinsky in 1910, a Russian émigré imbued with a spirituality stimulated by the mysticism of the East.

He Ping’s expression seems effortless. Standing in front of his easel he seems to dance or fence with his fast brush, marking the paper or canvas by swinging movements creating arcs of circles or linearity. 

His forms seem to swirl like straw in the wind. Casual, with hand in pocket he stains surface with ink or paint and at times pauses to think. His expression has an affinity with the simplicity in Joan Mirò’s works; his dexterity and emotional content echo Jackson Pollock. 

There is an unnerving balance between the white of the paper/canvas and the black strokes of the brush, between the coloured squiggles and the background. It is a matter of practice. He seems to work all day and in the end experience pays. As in handwriting or calligraphy when practised incessantly it becomes second nature.

His work is imbued with the spirit within. It is animistic as the blue horses by Franz Marc. Naturally with He Ping the physical horse or model disappears and instead the essential spirit remains in the form of abstract arcs or lines. Thus the traditional themes in Chinese art changed from the figurative expression of mountains, flowers and birds to an abstract expressionist language.

This continuous cultural and artistic exchange between the west and the orient started in time immemorial. The Chinese artist is conscious of the acute realism, naturalism and idealism of Masaccio and Jan Van Eyck’s vision and the mythical or real association of the latter with canvas and also quite familiar with the contrasts of a water-ink medium and oil paint; rice paper and canvas that has characterized this east-west dialogue. Historically Marco Polo, Matteo Ricci and Giuseppe Castiglione were vital pioneers in encouraging and stimulating exchanges: artistic, cultural, diplomatic and commercial, and the Silk Road helped this dialogue in a concrete and tangible manner. This east-west exchange continued under the late period of the Ming Dynasty at the end of 16th century.

More recently Japanese and Chinese goods that were exported to Europe in oriental wrappings and containing prints and pictures influenced the Impressionists and Post Impressionists after 1872 stimulating the exchange of ideas, visions and concepts. 

In 1906 (April 3) a special Chinese Delegation visited Dusseldorf in Germany with the specific intention to strengthen cultural exchanges. The delegation included Mr. Duan Fang, a calligrapher and famous collector, Governor of Fuijan and Zhyiang Provinces and His Excellency Mr. Dai Hongci Deputy Minister of Revenue in Feudal China. This exchange was such a grand success that it is considered a milestone between the two countries. More recently in February 2016 Zhang Jiangzhou (1967-) and the German Robert Hartman (1949-) organized: ‘Across Time Space’ an exhibition of Expressionist art in China. 

Fortunately for us Maltese we had the occasion to meet Zhang Jiangzhou, a master painter at the China Cultural Centre in Malta during the inauguration on the 11th of July 2016 of a wonderful collection of Fine Art Chinese works lent by the China National Academy of Painting. Through the service of the China Cultural Centre in Malta the cultural exchanges between China the U.S.A, U.K and France continue and extend to our shores.

E. V. Borg

Art critic & curator

Title: ‘Persistence of Form’

Personal Exhibition by He Ping

Venue: Space A, Spazju Kreattiv

St. James Cavalier, Valletta, Malta

September 3 – October 12 2016