A new exhibition of paintings and media works in the Quarter Gallery at the University of Minnesota's Regis Art Center brings traditional and new media methods by Chinese artist Zhang Meng. The pieces in "Hidden" — including video projections, iPad videos, and ink paintings on rice paper — reflect a continuous through-line between old and new.
Howard Oransky, the director of the Katherine E. Nash Gallery, says the idea for the show came from his former student Meng Tang, who did her MFA at the U of M. Tang is from China originally, and has known the artist for some time. She suggested Zhang Meng's work as a potential exhibition for the gallery, and got in touch with the artist. It was her curatorial decision, Oransky says, to include both Meng's traditional and new-media pieces.
Meng is dean at the School of Digital Media Arts at Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts. He specializes in digital video imaging (3D animation) and Chinese ink painting, and has recently served as the chief designer for the digital-media exhibitions at the Tianjin Davos World Economic Forum. He's also shown work all over the world, including in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Korea, and the United States.
Oransky says that Meng's work interests him because "his practice bridges the past and the future." His juxtaposition of traditional Chinese ink painting with new digital media is "seamlessly woven through his work."
According to Oransky, the interweaving of traditional painting techniques and new media plays out in two different ways. On the one hand, Meng will use digital media in a fashion that reflects a sensibility of traditional forms. A digital media work might present images of clouds or mountains, retaining a traditional interest in landscape. Meanwhile, digital media works often have "a kind of metallic feeling," that Oransky says describes traditional Chinese ink painting.
The other type of merging of old and new stems from the content of some of the pieces. For example, there might be a piece that is painted in the style of a traditional Chinese ink painting, but "there's a strange commentary that is going on," Oransky says, "where you see a freaked out image of a monkey in a tree. It looks like the creature is holding onto the past while embracing changes in the present and future."
IF YOU GO:
Meng is in town to install the work, and will be on hand for a public reception from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, January 8 "Hidden" runs January 7-18 Quarter Gallery, Regis Center for Art 405 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday