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Tang Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
2016.11.25 Fri - 2016.12.17 Sat
Opening Exhibition
Friday, November 25, 2016 from 6 – 8 pm
10/F, H Queen's, 80 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong 香港中环皇后大道中80号10楼
Opening Hours
Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 7pm
Beili Wang

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“Song of the Ancient Birds”
Tang Contemporary Art
Hong Kong
[Press Release]

Tang Contemporary Art is proud to announce the opening of “Ling Jian: Song of the Ancient Birds” on November 25. In seven all‐new paintings, Ling juxtaposes or layers images from bird painting manuals held at the Forbidden City with gongbi and realist portraits of women. After being tempered by the artist’s personal experience, these two seemingly disparate languages achieve immense harmony of visual expression and aesthetic sensibility.

Ling Jian’s new works are inspired by chance encounters with music and painting. The German rock band Rammstein has a heavy metal song entitled “Ohne Dich” (“Without You”) about love and death. One of the lyrics is “Ohne dich… Und die Vogel singen nicht mehr” (“Without you… the birds sing no more”). Ling Jian heard this song while shopping in a flea market, where he also chanced upon a bird painting manual from the Forbidden City. In that moment, the gongbi paintings of birds in this manual and Rammstein’s song collided and blended in time and space, producing a special emotional connection. With this unexpected encounter, Ling Jian chose to fuse gongbi bird painting with contemporary painting techniques, continuing his recent experiments with related artistic questions.

Guanxiu: Black, 2016 Oil and acrylic on canvas. 180 x 120 cm

Guanxiu: Black, 2016
Oil and acrylic on canvas. 180 x 120 cm

In Falling Ancient Birds, the overlapping and intersecting forms of birds were drawn from painting manuals made by the masters of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns. The feathers of different types of birds extend in different directions, as if they were passing from the tranquility of the Forbidden City into a realist figure, in order to create a new context. This work embodies the conflicts and fusions that took place at the moment of creation, transcending the logic of time.

In this exhibition, Ling Jian presents Guanxiu: Black and Guanxiu: Gold. The works are named after Guanxiu, a monk, painter, and poet active during the late Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties. He was best known for his painting Sixteen Arhats. A Record of Famous Paintings of Sichuan (Yizhou Minghua Lu) described the piece: “His sixteen arhats had bushy eyebrows, large eyes, sagging cheeks, and high noses. They were seated in landscapes, leaning against pine trees and stones. They looked and behaved like Hindus or Indians. When someone asked where he had seen such men he answered: ‘in my dream.’” Of all the artists in the history of Chinese painting, Ling Jian was most moved by Guanxiu, whose work truly resonated with him. These two pieces feature blotches of black and gold covering the figures’ faces, which symbolize Guanxiu’s robe and a clear understanding of life produced through abstraction. The body of the figures are presented like the Buddhist sculptures of Qingzhou, with the viewer able to see the back of the body and the fronts of the arms simultaneously. At that moment, the body has already transcended the personalities that Ling Jian emphasized in his previous portraits, becoming a collective vehicle for religion, personal experience, and abstract ideas.

Ling also explored the link between classical culture and new inspirations for contemporary art in his 2011 solo
exhibition “Moon in Glass” at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. In recent years, he has continued to draw
nourishment from traditional Chinese culture; aesthetically and technically, he perfectly blends traditional and
contemporary themes, transforming them into a painting style all his own. He has always embraced an open creative state, in which “ancient birds” fly to the present and sing the melodies of Kangxi and Rammstein.

Falling Ancient Birds, 2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 190 x 130 cm

Falling Ancient Birds, 2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 190 x 130 cm


Ling Jian (b. 1963, Shandong Province, China) currently lives and works in Beijing and Berlin. After receiving his degree from the Tsinghua University Academy of Art and Design (formerly the Central Academy of Art and Design) in 1986, he lived in Vienna, Hamburg, and Berlin for many years, returning to Beijing in 2006. Due to the realism of his depictions and the exaggeration of his forms, Ling Jian became known for his provocative and unsettling portraits of women. Through these attractive portraits, Ling explores themes of culture and individual thought in modern society.


Tang Contemporary Art was established in 1997 in Bangkok, later establishing galleries in Beijing and most recently Hong Kong. The gallery is fully committed to producing critical projects and exhibitions to promote Contemporary Chinese art regionally and worldwide, and encourage a dynamic exchange between Chinese artists and those abroad. Acting as one of the most progressive and critically driven exhibition spaces in China, the gallery strives to initiate dialogue between artists, curators, collectors and institutions working both locally and internationally. A roster of groundbreaking exhibitions has earned them international recognition, establishing their status as a pioneer of the contemporary art scene in Asia. Tang Contemporary Art represents leading figures in Chinese art including Ai Weiwei, Huang Yong Ping, Shen Yuan, Wang Du, Liu Xiaodong, Yang Jiechang, Xia Xiaowan, Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, Yan Lei, Wang Yin, Guo Wei, Zheng Guogu, Michael Lin, Lin Yilin, He An, Zhao Zhao, Wang Yuyang, Weng Fen, Yang Yong, Xu Hualing, Xu Qu, XU Xiaoguo, Ji Zhou, Cai Lei, Ling Jian and Chen Wenbo, additionally collaborating with international artists such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Navin Rawanchaikul, Sakarin Krue-on and Prasert Yodkaew.

HONG KONG Tang Contemporary Art’s recent expansion to a 2,000 sq. ft. gallery space in Central is part of a long term plan to develop their international programming. The space was inaugurated in October 2015 with the first solo exhibition of Ai Weiwei “Wooden Ball” in Hong Kong, followed by an ambitious line-­‐up of a monthly
exhibition program.