A keen innovator in the calligraphy and painting tradition, Wang Tiande creates conceptual, experimental works in a daring mixed media style, blending different materials and techniques. Once, as the ash of Wang’s lit cigarette was accidentally flicked onto xuan paper, the artist was mesmerised as it hollowed the paper creating shape by chance. Inspired, Wang began transforming his landscape paintings – often accompanied by calligraphy – by directly burning onto paper with a cigarette or incense, against a background of classical Chinese paintings he copied. Crucial to his art is the spontaneous deconstruction of classical paintings, which engages in direct dialogue with the tradition through the lens of a new visual vocabulary.
Born in 1960, Wang Tiande graduated from the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts where he specialised in Chinese painting and calligraphy yet did not limit his creativity to the confines of age-old traditions. According to the artist, his works are ‘paintings composed of two overlapping layers: the bottom, landscape and calligraphy depicted with traditional ink and brush, while the top, bast paper burnt with incense. Generated solely by the overlapping of the layers through the conceptual act, the added dimension of landscape and calligraphy can create a boundless space of imagination for the viewer.’ Thus, language, text, image and medium become intertwined in Wang’s work: the layers of paper woven through with burn marks and ink obstruct the viewer’s ability to derive meaning from the painting, creating delicate and complex palimpsests for the modern age.
An intricately painted, visually arresting and mesmerising work, Hou Shan Revolve-No.15-SNW1337 belongs to one of the snow-covered scenes that Wang has become fascinated with. Although often thought to be one of the greatest subject matters in the history of Chinese paintings, the landscape covered in snow depicted by Wang Tiande was not solely inspired by the desolation and Zen-like loneliness frequently seen in classical paintings. Instead, the artist was moved by the sense of vastness of snow falling in Canada: ‘the additional layer of snow on the overlapping surfaces creates a new richness in my work. The cool sensation the snow brings counteracts the burnt marks resulting from the incense – thus deepening the visual language through the juxtaposition.’ What the artist saw in the snowy landscape announces both a conceptual and visual breakthrough in his art, endowing his works with a new sense of serene lyricism and quiet confidence.