THE vagaries of Tasmanian weather and the work of 19th Century English painter JMW Turner have provided rich inspiration for the latest series of landscapes by Chen Ping on show at the Salamanca Collection from today.
The paintings in Chen’s If Turner was here…exhibition have a strong, muscular quality, highlighted by changing and dynamic light and atmospherics.
They depict the varying moods of Mt Wellington with evocative titles such as Snow Notes, Walking with Clouds and Antarctic Blast. Others are of the Gordon River, Lake St Clair and Cradle Mountain. Also included is a painting of Victoria Dock at night.
If Turner was here… is Chen’s third major exhibition at Salamanca Collection and the first that is entirely made up of landscapes.
“I have wanted to concentrate on landscapes for a long time,” Chen said.
“Now I finally have the chance to show people my interpretation of the landscape in the one exhibition.
“I have lived here for more than 10 years and the landscape here has fascinated me. It is always changing and is different from other places in the world.”
“I see the mountain every day in all different weathers, different aspects and moods,” Chen said.
“I tried to go up there during the big snow last year but it was blocked. I stood looking at the mountain with the snow and the clouds changing every minute and thought about how to use my technique to achieve that kind of chance and the force of the moment.
“The nature of forces like clouds and air breaks up the steel form of the mountain and I used the paint quality and dynamic of the stroke to bring the sky and the land together.”
Chen said the title of the exhibition came from the fact that he admired Turner’s work.
“John Glover did many paintings of Mt Wellington and was a contemporary of Turner,” he said.
“There is a big contrast in their style of painting. In a way I have used Mt Wellington as a metaphor for the way people look the landscape differently. Glover’s paintings have precise detail whereas Turner was able to catch the dynamic and the natural force and it led me to wonder what he would do with the landscape here.
“I have not only been inspired by him but this exhibition pays homage to him as well.
“His influence is immense and a lot of great artists have drawn inspiration from him.
“But at the time I have tried to develop my own language.”
Chen’s work is thought of by some as abstract but he doesn’t agree.
“I consider they are realistic,” Chen said.
“I start my work from a particular location but there is a lot of expressive quality in them.
Chen considers said that between the artist and the subject, light and air move and break up the form, and that movement and its effects are real.
“You can experience the heroic and solid form of a mountain and at the same time beautiful floating mists,” he said.
Chen emphasises the colours and quality of paint in his landscapes, and compares his paintings to classical music.
“My personal mood and passion goes into the painting through the stroke,” he said.
“When you listen to Beethoven’s music you may hear an approaching storm, but in the end you can’t tell whether it is the storm or an expression of his emotions. When I listen to it I have tears in my eyes. It is from his heart.
“In life we experience tragedy but we also experience beauty. They all come together.
“My paintings have different pictorial qualities and in the end they not only depict a landscape but my feelings as well. Those changing qualities mean other people can interpret them in different ways as well.”
Chen’s paintings of the Gordon River, Lake St Clair and Cradle Mountain also express different moods.
“The weather was always changing,” he said.
“There are storms, rain, sunshine and rainbows, everything. Coming back to Turner it is all about the changing dynamic and natural forces in the landscape.
“That’s what special about Tasmania.”
Chen Ping’s If Turner was here…exhibition opens at the Salamanca Collection this afternoon and continues until April 18.