Chinese artist and entrepreneur, Mao Jianhua, launches his debut UK exhibition, Spirit of the Valley, with an immersive experience at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea this June
Lead image: MIRAGE 27 by Mao Jianhua (ink on handmade paper, 245cm by 122cm)
The new series of 48 specially commissioned works will immerse the viewer in Jianhua’s spiritual exploration of the Chinese mountains, with large-scale works transforming the gallery space as music helps induce a meditative state.
A very spiritual person, Jianhua derived the title of his exhibition, Spirit of the Valley, from a phrase of verse by Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, which draws parallels between the mystery of the creative process and that of nature.
Tzu (alongside Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu) is one of the founders of Taoism, the belief that the universe follows an inherent harmony, regardless of human presence. which Jianhua acknowledges as a strong influence on his way of being and artistic practice.
‘The true work of art, whether it is a painting or sculpture, must be an expression of the freedom of life,’ says Mao Jianhua.
‘Behind every work of art there is a message of interior harmony and a feeling of peace.’
‘The true work of art, whether it is a painting or sculpture, must be an expression of the freedom of life’
His greatest inspiration is the Yellow Mountains, an area of outstanding natural beauty in Eastern China, and a place of artistic pilgrimage for thousands of years.
The Spirit of the Valley exhibition showcases a series of landscape ink paintings created on Xuan paper, a material handmade from the Sandalwood tree which has traditionally been used for writing and painting.
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Polymorphic shapes in black ink give the works a rhythmic quality, which are at times enlivened with blue, green and red.
These dynamic works are offset by one painting left untouched, mirroring the infinite state of Wu-Chi – a period of quiet standing, still and relaxed, before exercise or activity.
‘The poetic force and beauty of this new series of works by Mao Jianhua invites us on a journey that challenges both our body and mind’
‘The poetic force and beauty of this new series of works by Mao Jianhua invites us on a journey that challenges both our body and mind with an experience where art and Tao are inherently connected,’ says Martina Mazzotta, Curator of The Spirit of the Valley.
‘This exhibition is an opportunity to explore an area of culture which is in many ways still a mystery in much of the Western world.’
Interested from a young age by the ancient art of calligraphy – and more recently by the Chinese landscape painting tradition, Shan Shui, from the Song, Yuan and Qing dynasties –
Jianhua’s works are personal and poetic, influenced by spirituality yet rooted in tradition.
Born in Changshu, Jiangsu, in 1955, Jianhua is that rare blend of artist and entrepreneur, founding the Maydiang Group, a leather company producing premium quality leather products for many world famous fashion brands, some 30 years ago.
The exhibition, presented by the Maydiang Group, runs from 27 June until 7 July 2019 at Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, Chelsea SW3 4RY; maojianhua.com