The Scholar and the Sentinel

Casting a modern light through the lens of a rich art-historical legacy, each of the contemporary Chinese and Japanese artists featured in this exhibition seeks to uncover transformative new models of self-expression through the use of traditional mediums.

For its inaugural debut at Asian Art in London, FitzGerald Fine Arts is excited to present this curatorial program highlighting recent innovations in the classical vehicles of ceramic and ink from challenging artistic viewpoints. Jingdezhen-based porcelain masters and Japanese National Treasure artists unite alongside Beijing and Hangzhou talents pushing the boundaries in contemporary works on paper. Yet this struggle to obey ancient disciplines whilst bursting with a need for unfettered individualism does not sacrifice aesthetic grace and exquisite material quality. In the quiet of their personal studios, these academically rooted masters seek to engage us in an unflinching modern-day dialogue—sentinels erected within the forest of tradition.

More than any other art form in its long repertoire, porcelain has served to link China to a globalized network— procuring and inspiring creative influence from Africa to Indonesia. Its dual role as a technological marvel and a stage for individual expression has made it one of the most fertile mediums for artistic innovation today. Loved for their incredibly thin body and airy translucence, the porcelains of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, have stimulated a preternatural fascination amongst connoisseurs the world over. Widely copied by European and Japanese craftsmen, the monochrome, underglaze, and enameled wares of the ‘Porcelain Capital’ have fed an artistic passion touching all four corners of the globe.

Drawing from and informing this opulent heritage, the artists represented here continue to marry artistic and technological innovation. Enduring in the footsteps of antiquity, Jingdezhen porcelain has not only profoundly informed art within China, but has entwined itself within the greater narrative of world history seen in the corresponding Japanese works in this exhibition. FitzGerald Fine Arts is proud to be a part of this cross-cultural narrative.

Works such as Zhang Guojun’s Beyond Mountains Series and Zhou Rong’s Awn 2 play with notions of temporal density and visual perspective, made relevant by a deeper understanding of classical connoisseurship. For example, the coy two-dimensional representation of a traditional three-dimensional scholar's rock (gongshi) forces the viewer to mentally transverse even the most traditional of objects in new ways. Such ironic twists in the presentation of classical subject mater lay claim to the independence being asserted by these artists over the traditional cannon of Asian art as a whole.

Above all, each artist featured herein maintains a profound respect for the natural environment and organic materials, an adherence to time-honored artistic techniques and an embrace of the subconscious and enigmatic, particularly as it relates to cultural metaphors. The gallery is proud to present this new narrative in London for the first time as part of its ongoing mission to secure a platform for these vaunted legacy techniques well into the future.