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Chinese landscape art shapes American painter's vision

Updated: 2015-07-28 10:33:40

( China Daily )

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Ross Lewis' work Scroll Machine is on display at his show in Beijing.[Photo provided to China Daily]

American painter Ross Lewis' ongoing exhibition in Beijing tells the story of how Chinese cultural influences have shaped his work.

Lewis, who's in his 50s, has drawn inspiration from shanshui (Chinese landscape ink art) since the 1980s. He has created dozens of attractive rope paintings as tributes to ancient Chinese landscape masters.

Lewis has marched further to present an effect similar to that of printing on paper.

"My study of Chinese calligraphy and landscape painting has influenced my perception of space and movement-the cornerstones of my work," the New York-based artist says on the sidelines of his show, Dancing with Rope, at Beijing's Today Art Museum.

Lewis calls himself "part Chinese" because of the dominant presence of Chinese culture in his career and personal life.

His interest in Chinese culture grew from high school, and he studied Chinese literature and history at Oberlin College in the United States. He advanced his Chinese studies in Taiwan as an exchange student.

During his stay in Taiwan, Lewis got to know some veteran painters who became his mentors in the shanshui genre. After his graduation from Oberlin, he visited the Chinese mainland as a tour guide and met with more well-established artists, such as Lu Yanshao, Cheng Shifa and Zhu Qizhan.

The meetings deepened his understanding of Chinese art philosophy.

Lewis later became a curator at New York's Hammerquist Gallery, where he promoted Chinese art through exhibitions and lectures.

By the '90s, he started to invest more energy in searching for his own style. His initial breakthrough is visible through his Shan-zi series that's on display in Beijing.

He was inspired by the ancient landscapes created on a round piece of paper. But he felt no desire to just re-create the lines of masters. Lewis simply altered the traditional approach.

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