Lampo Leong, PhD has published a new book on his art, “Contemplation • Forces” that is produced in conjunction with Lampo Leong: A Retrospective, on display in the Truman State University Art Gallery from September 4 to October 5, 2013.
The Forward was written by Aaron Fine, Professor of Art and Gallery Director of Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri. He describes Leong as a master of many creative media who works towards a seamless synthesis of disparate elements.
“I have always declined to describe Professor Leong as a ‘Chinese Artist’ because I don’t think his work relies upon that prefix to have its intended effect upon the viewer,” Fine states in the forward. “But one thing his work does do, with incredible clarity, is stand firmly within both Chinese and American artistic contexts.”
Born in Guangzhou in 1961, Leong was trained in the classical Chinese disciplines of calligraphy and painting at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. In 1983, he moved to San Francisco, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from the California College of the Arts in 1988 and a Ph.D. at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2009. He is currently a Professor of Art at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“The Sublime seems to impart to works imbued with its spirit something transcendental and timeless, something that otherwise belongs only to primordial Nature,” Leong states in his exhibition book. “My work also responds to this same spirit. Through my painting, I hope to allow the viewer to share my reverence and wonder before Nature’s awesome majesty.
The paintings of Contemplation • Forces have evolved a postmodern visual language that incorporates the rhythm of wild cursive Chinese calligraphy with images from outer pace or the microcosmic world in color schemes reminiscent of the symphonic effects achieved by Abstract Expressionism, Leong said. He continues to pay homage to the spontaneity and beauty of the calligraphic stroke, while literally shattering the written word, layering, overlapping, fading the mutable fragments in and out of dynamically shifting planes of meditative or molten hues.
Patricia Berger, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, University of Calif., Berkeley, said Contemplation • Forces, evokes multiple layers of reference from China’s ancient past and from the Leong’s own complex, multicultural experiences.
“Lampo Leong is the product of several distinct worlds—traditional and modern China, and the post-modern West,” Berger states in the book.
Berger said Leong developed a unique fusion of traditional Chinese and modernist Western painting into an explosive vision that combines radically cursive calligraphy with stratified fields of translucent color. She said his technique is similarly eclectic, bringing together classical brushwork, computer-printed imagery, and Western color-field painting in works that evoke the mysterious creative processes of the earth.
In Contemplation • Forces, Lampo Leong has returned to the calligraphic sources of Chinese painting to probe the limits of legibility and question how meaning is conveyed or distorted through culturally sanctioned signs. Berger said his working process involves deconstruction of traditional forms and a careful reintegration of dissected fragments into a stratified ground. His huge compositions begin as small-scale, traditional inscriptions, done with brush and ink on rice-paper in a calligraphic style that skirts the edge of readable cursive form.
Modeling himself on such innovative Tang masters as Zhang Xu (ca. 700-750) and the Chan monk Huaisu (737-799), she said Leong adheres to time-honored methods of abbreviation, harmony, and balance in building the basis for his final compositions. But he departs from tradition when he splits his preliminary inscription and painting into pieces and collages them on canvas.
“Leong then scans this work into a computer and finally blows it up by using a large-format ink-jet printer that faithfully reproduces the movement of brush across paper onto another canvas,” Berger said. “His vision has just begun to take shape, however, as he begins to apply layer upon layer of watercolor, acrylic color or oil over and around the calligraphic fragments, patiently building up the surface in an accretion of color, texture, and captured movement that suggests infinitely long and apparently chaotic cosmic processes. Out of the billowing, vivid clouds that roll across his canvases, shards of characters flicker and float, offering the hope of explicit meaning, but in the end remaining hidden, enigmatic, and provocative.”
Leong is an internationally acclaimed artist and currently a Professor of Art at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a former Art Department Chair. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and has been named Weiner Distinguished Professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
He has served as judge for over 30 art competitions and presented more than 160 lectures across the United States and Asia in universities such as Berkeley, Stanford, and Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. Leong’s work has been featured worldwide through over 60 solo and 360 group exhibitions, received over 55 awards, and could be found among 16 museums and hundreds of corporate and private collections. His achievements have been featured in more than 900 reviews/publications internationally, including the front covers for New Art International and Creative Genius: 100 Contemporary Artists. In 1999, San Francisco Mayor proclaimed November 19th to be Lampo Leong Day.
Find our more at www.LampoLeong.com and http://web.missouri.edu/~leongl.