Declared a child prodigy by the Chinese government at the age of 12 and trained extensively with the masters of her time, Lou Zhenggang rose to national fame as a legendary figure in Chinese calligraphy and painting during the 1970s and 1980s. She moved to Japan at the age of 20 where she developed an EXTRA-ordinary technique with profound poetry and emotion.
In 1993, Zhenggang Works Exhibitions was held in UN headquarter in New York. The UN Children’s Fund printed 22 of her works onto postcards to issue in over 140 countries and regions. 8 of her works were chosen to be the cover page of 8-volume High School national language textbooks of Japan. In 2007, the 34 serial works named Life & Love by Lou Zhenggang were collected by China National Museum.
Collected by many renowned museums and private collectors alike, Zhenggang established herself as one of the leading contemporary artists of our time.
Inspired by Heraclitus’ philosophy, Everything Flows is Lou Zhenggang’s latest exhibition; it means that everything is in continuous flow and movement. Curated for Gallery Nyoze by Riana Raouna, Everything Flows is currently virtually exhibited on Kunstmatrix; a unique occasion to question the curator on the work of this phenomenal artist.
- Why did you decide to curate this exhibition?
Riana Raouna: “what interests me the most, is Lou Zhenggang’s spiritual strength and passion reflected on the canvas. In her abstract paintings, which are often very large, the artist combines harmony and tension in a way that is not just aesthetically beautiful but also emotionally moving.
Although her paintings in oil and acrylic are abstract, one can clearly identify that the water element plays a protagonistic role, since the artist is inspired by the scenery of the Pacific Ocean viewed from her studio in Izu, Japan. In her paintings, Zhenggang celebrates the Ocean and the Sky as primitive elements that carry a universal memory and wisdom acquired through thousands of years of existence. Through dynamic and free brushstrokes on the canvas, color and light are used to express the changing moods of the Ocean which are metaphoric expressions of human emotions. They portray the transitory nature of existence between joy, melancholy, and the headiness of contemporary life.
At a time of challenge and global uncertainty, I felt that it is important to curate an exhibition where the ephemeral and the subjective nature of reality are emphasized. Furthermore, Heraclitus’s doctrine of “flux” corresponded perfectly with the artist’s interest in self-cultivation and evolution through the depiction of the Ocean in continuous movement and transformation.
“Everything Flows” is a hopeful and optimistic exhibition that celebrates the universality and wisdom of the Ocean which maintains its grace and harmony irrespective of turbulence or tranquility. It is also based on the philosophy of Giles Deleuze according to which, the aesthetic experience of “seeing” allows the viewer to escape from the strict limits of the conscious mind towards new paths of imagination and inner wisdom.”
- During this pandemic, everything doesn’t seem to flow… at all. Can you elaborate on Heraclitus’s philosophy which has inspired you to curate this exhibition?
“Heraclitus was the first influential philosopher of change and one of the statements of his doctrine is that “all things are flowing, and nothing endures but change”. The exhibition title is borrowed by his famous quote “Τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ” (ta panta ri) which translates into “Everything Flows”.
Heraclitean knowledge serves the purpose of coping with change and centers around the pairs of opposites between which we oscillate; disease makes health pleasant, weariness follows rest and the path up and down is the same. These combinations of opposites reflect the unity of the world which results from diversity. As Heraclitus says, “the total balance in the cosmos can only be maintained if a change in one direction eventually leads to change in the other”.
The global pandemic could be perceived as a dark moment, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned. “Everything Flows” is particularly relevant to the challenging times we are going through, by exploring the fluidity of life, the subjective nature of reality, and the cyclical nature of time; the Ocean connects us to the past and present, traversing time and shaping human knowledge and experience. Change is a fact of life and shall be embraced with courage and curiosity.”
- Currently virtually exhibited on Kunstmatrix, how do you take advantage of technology to promote and sell art?
“Technology plays a vital role, on the one hand in allowing artists to show and sell their work internationally and on the other, art lovers and collectors to remain in touch with art. Historically, the art world was hesitant in embracing technology since social interaction with artists and like-minded art lovers in a physical environment was an important part of the experience.
However, art galleries, curators, and even auction houses have shifted their efforts into digital presence within a very short period with impressive, positive results. Online exhibitions, online viewing rooms, virtual reality exhibitions, and online auctions are today’s new reality.
The ability to view exhibitions from wherever you are in the world has broken all geographical barriers and also, attracted the attention of a new, younger generation of collectors who would not otherwise visit an art gallery. And of course, one should not underestimate the fact that the use of technology significantly contributes towards the minimization of the carbon footprint, since the transportation costs and logistics that are necessary in the case of physical exhibitions, do not apply.
The digitization of the art world is here to stay, and it is going to create even more opportunities for the democratization of art.”
About Riana Raouna
Riana is an independent curator, artist liaison, and contemporary art writer. She is a graduate of an MA in Contemporary Art from Sotheby’s Institute of Art – London, and marketing communications professional with more than twenty years of experience in the field. Her research is focused on aesthetic theory, identity politics, and migration.
PS: a BIG thank you to Mary Theodorou for the introduction.
Visuals © Gallery Nyoze, Lou Zhenggang
Lou Zhenggang, Untitled 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 194 ×972 cm (6 consecutive works)
Lou Zhenggang, Untitled 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 194 × 162 cm
Lou Zhenggang, Untitled 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 162 × 162 cm
I drift in an infinite universe
through my heart and draw
with a brush in my hands