Rorschach inkblot tests instantly come to mind when looking at the 30 black-and-white abstract paintings in “Mind Traveling: Ink Art of Lu Chuntao” at the Chinese Culture Center.
The exhibit, guest curated by Kuiyi Shen, marks the Shanghai artist's 50th birthday and the center's 50th anniversary. Chinese Culture Center Artistic Director Abby Chen invited Lu, who is well-known China and Europe, to make his U.S. debut as part of the organization’s “mission of intercultural discovery through art, education and engagement.”
The show’s title “mind traveling” refers to an ancient Chinese concept of experiencing the same feeling of discovery and elation by looking at a painting as when traveling to unknown places.
Shen, a professor of Asian art at UC San Diego who authored the exhibit’s catalog, describes the paintings’ landscapes as “a dream-like world functioning as a source of Lu's thinking, creative process and emotions. In his works, we can perceive the sense of loneliness, solitude, and longing found in real life.”
“When my painting brush dances over rice paper, each rising stroke and each pause are infused with the vision for inner imagery,” says Lu, who attended the exhibition’s weekend opening during Lunar New Year festivities in The City.
Lu's technique is unique. He makes his own paper (what is popularly known as rice paper isn't necessarily made of rice; pulp of various plants can be used) and pastes it up on canvas (or a smooth layer of paper) before applying ink with a brush.
The result is a textured surface, and inkblots merging with lumps of paper.
Although the image of the flower is not easy to see in his current works, lotus plays an important role in Lu's dreamy world. A centuries-long symbol in Asia of transcendence, lotus is represented by Lu in several disguises, including under the surface of water where, Shen says, “The pond creates a site for spiritual wandering.”
Lu's “Lotus Pond” series a few years ago featured color and recognizable flower images. Abstracts on view in “Mind Traveling”represent a new phase in the artist's evolution.
IF YOU GO
Mind Traveling: Ink Art of Lu Chuntao
Presented by Chinese Culture Center
Where: Hilton Hotel, 750 Kearny St., third floor, S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closes April 11
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Contact: (415) 986-1822, www.c-c-c.org