Oneness of Body and Bamboo: Shan Fan’s Artworks

Date:2024-03-21 Browsing Times:2647



In the early spring of 2012, “Oneness of Body and Bamboo: Shan Fan’s Artworks” was exhibited in Suzhou Museum. And today, twelve years later, we meet again in Suzhou Museum West.

Shan Fan and the late Meinhard von Gerkan were old friends. Von Gerkan was the founding partner of von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (GMP) in Germany, and as the architect of Suzhou Museum West, he blended the traditional pattern of streets in Jiangnan and modern architectural styles in the building, which, actually, resonates with Shan Fan’s exploration of the cultural integration between the East and the West. In this way, this exhibition is a fond remembrance of the bosom friend for Shan Fan as well as a course of his unceasing self-pursuit. While for Suzhou Museum, this exhibition is a mutual reflection of re-encounter and forward movement.

In 1959, Shan Fan was born in Anji , a county of Hangzhou, which is famous for green bamboos. Shan Fan’s teacher was Zheng Dehan, student of Zhang Taiyan at the National Learning Society in Suzhou. Educated as traditional Chinese literati by the “Zhang-Huang School”, he was exposed to epigraphy, seal cutting, calligraphy and painting since he started his artistic career, which laid a solid foundation for his current artistic creation. In 1984, Shan Fan went to study in Germany, and began his cultural pursuit that lasted for forty years. In 2006, he decided to take “bamboo” as the main subject of his creation. The exploration of culture in the past 20 years is kind of a spiritual migration for Shan Fan as to some extent the bamboo has become his spiritual sustenance from the moment he left his hometown.

“Painting The Moment” and “Painting Slowness” were two of the richest series of Shan Fan’s practice on bamboos’ modernization, which are not only different processes in terms of time scale, but also the unique result of blending the memory of his homeland in the East with the experience of his life in the West.

“Painting The Moment” continues the tradition of Chinese painting, using the traditional mediums of writing brush, ink and Xuan paper to present a visual brushwork that is “quick to start and straight to finish” while the underlying formal language is the strict and explicit law of Bauhaus school for modern composition. In this quick painting, with Eastern sensibility and Western rationality interacting with each other, Shan Fan’s experience of brushwork acquired in his youth and the visual logic accumulated in Germany act together on his artworks.

On the other hand, “Painting Slowness” transforms ink paintings to oil paintings, by which way, the artist’s instantaneous inspiration is extended into a long period of physical labor. In this experimental measurement of time, the traditional concept of “ink bamboo” is broken by analyzing the oriental mood from a western perspective. The contrast between the free color and the fixed time is like the struggle between the spirit and the body, which is a deep dialogue of Shan Fan in the process of his self-pursuit.

The exhibition “Rustling Bamboo or Ruffled Mind” presents Shan Fan’s latest paintings in recent years, in which his topics on bamboo continue to update. Through various devices and spatial relationships, the bamboo in mind and the bamboo in reality overlap in the hall, and against the shadow of bamboos, there appears the old window view of Jiangnan and the figure walking alone on the foreign land. This exhibition not only unveils Shan Fan’s artistic endeavors, but also reveals his life experience and intellectual thinking.

Now, spring is in full bloom in March, and the green bamboos are thriving outside the window. Why not stop for a moment and listen to the bamboos’ rustling in tranquility?

Rustling Bamboo or Ruffled Mind

“Oneness of body and bamboo”has been the artistic concept pursued by Shan Fan, a Chinese German artist. Grown up in Anji in Zhejiang Province, east China, which is hailed as the “Land of Bamboo in China”, and now living in Hamburg, which is known as “Bridge City of the World”, Mr. Shan Fan has made due contributions to promoting the cultural exchanges between China and Europe. His nostalgic feeling, global vision and aesthetic taste are fully reflected in his beloved bamboo paintings. He has resorted to bamboo-themed artworks in different forms and styles to express his feelings, concepts and transcendental convictions.

Starting his career as a painter, Shan Fan is adept at making good use of various materials to express his overall feelings in the fast-changing era. As a prolific artist, Shan Fan has produced a number of works of diverse topics and styles using various techniques throughout his 40-year career in artistic creation. The current exhibition displays the works he has created in recent years.

The famous Taoist saying of “it’s not the fluttering banner in wind, but your perception of it that counts” well expresses the complicate relations between the outside world and the inner feeling, the consciousness and the perception, revealing the universal laws governing the living environment and the state of life. Even the most insignificant individuals have to perceive and follow the universal laws throughout their lives. Through different forms and postures of bamboos in periods of varying length, Shan Fan has converted his perception of the outside and inside worlds into lively and rich language of painting. From paintings to installations, both impromptu inspiration and careful pondering count in creating flexible and powerful works. At the sight of the rustling bamboos in the breeze, the artist achieves his inner balance.

Once the wind blows, the bamboo rustles. The self-insight and self-restraint in constantly changing conditions refer to the sate of being full of peace and happiness, which is an ideal state for self-cultivation and self-tempering, just like the green bamboo that always rustles but never bends in the center of the exhibition hall.