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Xu Dongdong: Chinese abstract painting goes global

Updated: 2015-07-29 12:27:46

( China Pictorial )

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East-West Cultural Exchange

In 1997, Xu began bending the "Dreams of Sunshine and Harmony" activity. The activity uses the album The Inner World of Xu Dongdong, published the same year, as a guide. Including various facets of traditional Chinese painting, paintings integrating both Chinese and Western elements, and contemporary paintings, the album not only compiles Xu's painstaking efforts over decades, but also showcases the Chinese artist's understanding of his own culture and communication with alien cultures. Xu eventually presented this album to more than 1,200 libraries, museums, and galleries around the world. George H. W. Bush even wrote a letter to then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji after the George Bush Library and Museum received the album, declaring that it was a special gift that both he and his wife loved very much.

In 2001, "From Tradition to Present - A Retrospective Exhibition by Chinese Artist Xu Dongdong" was held at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva. Vladimir Petrovsky, director-general of the UN Office in Geneva, and Rubens Ricupero, secretary-general of UN Conference on Trade and Development, attended the opening ceremony and delivered speeches. They revealed that Xu had conducted extensive exchange and dialogue with many cultural organizations in European and American countries, which conformed to the call for "Dialogues among Civilizations" by the UN.

Xu Dongdong believes that China's better integration into the world looks like a political and economic issue on the surface, but at the core is about cultural identity. While he was involved with the "Dreams of Sunshine and Harmony" activity, Xu began to tour Europe and the United States, carrying out systematic study of Western culture and art and carefully researching various genres of Western paintings.

Born in Beijing in 1959 and a member with China Artists Association, Xu Dongdong has been practicing artistic creation for more than 40 years, since the mid-1970s. His painting style has evolved over time, brimming with innovative spirit. He created his own artistic concept, "infinite universal consciousness ," and his Chinese abstract paintings feature a distinctive style.

Exploring Chinese Abstract Painting

In 2003, at the peak of his career, Xu disappeared from the public view. "I don't want to fall into a path that others have taken," he explains. Longing to be artistically reborn, Xu chose to live in seclusion to explore Chinese abstract painting.

Xu's Chinese painting work started long ago. He started with traditional Chinese painting and absorbed color application from impressionism. "I attach great importance to the study of Western paintings," he insists. "It is more than just a personal hobby, but also a law of cultural exchanges and a requirement of the time." In the late 1980s, he began systematically researching abstract painting, and proposed "looking for abstract concepts in Chinese philosophy and transforming them into painting languages."

His abstract paintings were unveiled one after another. From 2002 to 2005, he created Siege: Inside and Outside series, exploring the laws of human civilization's evolution. From 2005 to 2006, he presented Distance 23 series, in hopes of exhibiting 23 instantaneous moments of life. And his The Buddhism series created from 2000 to 2001, Ten Divinity Samples series in 2007, and The Taiji series from 2008 to 2010 exhibit his deep understanding of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. From 2013 to 2014, Soul of Creatures in Four Seasons was created, lifting his Chinese abstract painting to a new level by depicting traces of human souls in the universe and discussing the cycle of life and life's meaning.

"The significance of life lies in creation," Xu insists. "Right now, the sail of my dream is raised high, and I will brave any and all wind and waves with a determined mind."


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