Heilongjiang is a land of varied topography. Much of the province is dominated by mountain ranges, countless undulating peaks like nameless sleeping giants. Artist Huang Hong Tao pays tribute to these rolling hills that he grew up with, with his iconic Nameless Hills series. The artist grew up in a poor rural farming village, and his journey to become an artist was not an easy one. This makes the artist’s attachment to this land is all the more understandable.
Huang Hong Tao’s traditional Chinese landscapes are met with an undoubtedly contemporary technique, resulting in a collection of works that possesses the spiritual traditions and content of Chinese ink painting yet still highly accessible to the modern audience.
Huang uses particularly thick rice paper to better capture intricate layers of ink wash, and he also employs an almost ‘gongbi’ style of meticulous fine brushwork to bring out the trees and other details in his paintings (‘gongbi’ is one of the many styles of traditional Chinese ink painting, which uses very fine brushstrokes to creating realistic paintings, often of birds and flowers. This technique was first popularized in the Tang, Five dynasties and Song period).
Prominently, the trees and figures are not in direct proportion to the hills as the artist is not constrained by the Western parameters of concepts of perspective. In the tradition of Chinese ink paintings, artists seek not to depict reality with accuracy but instead, to capture the essence and spirit of the subject. In his Nameless Hills series, Huang poignantly brings out the enigmatic and contemplative nature of these lesser known hills. The quality of the quiet, contemplative hillocks is projected onto his figures – sometimes a horse, sometimes a man. Perhaps, one could even suggest that the figure is the artist himself.
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