Hong Zhu An: Ascetic Serenity

In his continuing efforts to seek a greater harmony and the attainment of universal ideals, Singaporean artist Hong Zhu An has produced a new series of works in collaboration with STPI, bringing into view a landscape harkening of Zen and serenity. During his three-week residency, Hong explored papermaking from its most basic components, creating over 40 artworks that capture transient states and feelings, transcending language and cultural barriers.

In an age of globalisation, Hong’s works convey a modern sensibility anchored in the rich history of his Chinese roots. He combines spontaneous actions with an air of discipline – alternating sketching and pondering before grabbing handfuls of wet pulp and applying them with swift vigorous strokes. These masterful strokes, like those manifested in Dragon I and II, are a translation of energy rather than figurative or verbal idioms. Just as they exude a quintessential Chinese ethos integral to his heritage, the artist rejects not the influences of the 21st century, but rather reconciles the two into a visual language that has become his own.

Works like Memory and Tranquility further reveal the heightened sensitivity of the artist. Resilient and poignant, these portray a delicate line running horizontal or vertical across a dense field of colour. The colour field communicates emotion and states of mind through its character and permeability, and while the horizontal line conveys a sense of calm or repose, the vertical line communicates a feeling of loftiness and spirituality, extending upwards beyond human reach, as if heaven-bound. Like Man’s solitary journey to find his own place in the universe, their singularity and minuteness brings into awareness the vastness of space that enshrouds them.

“Throughout his entire residency, Hong was so involved in the process that his energy – both creative and spiritual – becomes crystallised in the work itself,” describes Emi Eu, Director of STPI. Having ever traversed continents, it can be said that the artist draws this energy from cultural ebbs and flows that permeate geographical and ideological borders of East and West. Combined with a vision that remains distinctly Chinese, these works embody a vacation from the material world, to a destination where time slows and stops, in a spiritual resonance that follows the union of one’s inner being and the greater cosmos.