Spiritual Mountains debuts a recent gift to BAMPFA of eleven paintings by the Hong Kong artist Wesley Tongson (1957–2012). His work draws heavily on traditional Chinese painting techniques and processes, including painting with his fingers and hands, but takes these a step further to create a personal expression that is wholly his own. This exhibition combines Tongson’s works with historic paintings from BAMPFA’s extensive Chinese painting collection to demonstrate the relationship between his genius and that of past masters. Throughout Tongson’s practice, we perceive a strong admiration and acknowledgement of the past, even as he pursued a new direction in his own work. It is in his highly lyrical brushwork and exuberant style of painting—which included large-scale landscapes and intricately patterned, dense examinations of the natural world—that we comprehend his range and genius.
Arnold Chang, whose wonderfully anachronistic ink painting Thinking of Spring (2000) is included in the show, wrote in 2006: “The response I seek from the viewer is that the work has the look and feel of an old master painting. And yet, one can’t point to any specific image or artist that I am copying.”
As the visual arts center at one of the world’s leading public research universities, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) brings the rich artistic resources of the UC Berkeley campus to the broader public. BAMPFA’s mission is to inspire the imagination, ignite critical dialog, and activate community engagement through art, film, and other forms of creative expression. Through its collections, research resources, and programs, BAMPFA aspires to be locally connected and globally relevant.