Reflections on water
Updated: 2012-08-03 11:12
By Ji Xiang (China Daily)
Daniel Aeberli has created landscape paintings that resonate with traditional Chinese shanshui art. Provided to China Daily
Chinese touch seen in an artist's Deep love of a Swiss Lake
Anyone with even a passing interest in Chinese art knows that apart from the fabled Four Gentlemen - orchids, bamboo, the chrysanthemum and the plum blossom - there are at least two other staples in Chinese paintings: mountains and water.
But while those two characteristics are distinct to the shanshui art form, Chinese artists clearly do not have a monopoly on the mountains and water embodied in its name.
Living in a country that seems to have more than its fair share of mountains and lakes, it may come as little surprise that the Swiss artist Daniel Aeberli has created works that have a touch of shanshui.
The body of water that has been particularly inspirational for him is Lake Neuchatel, at the southern foot of the Jura mountains.
Blaise Godet, the ambassador of Switzerland to China and the patron of an exhibition of Aeberli's art in Beijing, is a keen admirer.
"His art is outwardly oriented, integrating aesthetics of often bluish landscapes, the sky or the water, as well as introspective in the sense that it fixes essential impressions and smooth lines emerging from a genuine spiritual quest on the canvas."
But Aeberli's horizons extend beyond his country's borders. Some of his works take in the rolling hills of Tuscany and the expansive waters of Venice.
His works, on display in Beijing, are a distant mirror of shanshui scrolls that provide an artist vertical space to give shape to landscapes, the ambassador says.
Aeberli's expectations of the Beijing exhibition are modest: "to make new contacts with art lovers in China".
To him, painting is all about suggesting a mood, and the ability to appreciate the exhibition does not depend on where you come from or the color of your passport. "When I create, I do not take into account the tastes of any countries. I continue my own quest for space and light. One should not consider the spectator incompetent and (you) therefore leave room for interpretation."
The choice of venue for the exhibition, Hotel Grace Beijing, was no accident; located near the 798 art district of the capital, it has its own art display space.
Yves Godard, the hotel's general manager, says exhibitions there are constantly refreshed, taking in various art forms. Photos of the venue were sent to Aeberli a year before the exhibition, and he worked specifically on large formats appropriate to the space.
Godet predicts that in China Aeberli would discover settings that would abide with him and inspire him, whether by works of great masters or simply by taking in the colors around him.
As if not to disappoint Godet, Aeberli says: "Some views, including one lake at the Summer Palace, which has deeply touched me, will somehow resurface in my next works. Before leaving for Beijing I had read many art books on Chinese painting and I (was) in awe of the works of the 12th and 13th centuries."
For him, landscape painting is "a mode of expression which, through color and space, creates an atmosphere conducive to meditation without the presence of ... humans. I re-create landscapes that could be those before man arrives or the ones after he disappears. In general, my paintings are based on the theme of expectation, a certain mystery and the search for a lost paradise."
Aeberli, 65, says art is central to his life. And central to his art is Lake Neuchatel, a constant companion throughout his career.
He set up his first workshop in Bevaix, a tiny settlement a couple of kilometers from the western edge of the lake, 40 years ago; in 1980 he moved 12 kilometers up the road to Neuchatel, where he had been born; six years later he set up shop on the other side of the lake in the village of Cudrefin, and in 1995 he moved to the town of Saint-Blaise, on the lake's northern tip.
But he has not been content to observe and capture the varied hues from different points around Lake Neuchatel. He has broadened his range of vision and paintings in visits to France, Italy and the Netherlands.
Behind his works are years of hard effort and tutelage in painting and sculpture by masters of art, and he sees parallels in China.
"Generally, I do not believe in self-taught artists. As in the Chinese painting tradition or that of the European Renaissance, there are masters and we have to work with them before finding our own ways.
"As in all professions there are ups and downs. It takes patience and perseverance. An artist is better off at un certain age than at the beginning of his career. It's the first 30 years that are the hardest."
The exhibition is on until Aug 31.
(China Daily 08/03/2012 page29)