Reviews & Articles

Abstraction in Movement

By Vittoria Coen — a Curator’s Statement for Lo Mei Hing’s Exhibition HEAVEN'S GATE. (Vittoria Coen is a contemporary art critic and writer; Professor of Art at Accademia di Brera in Milan, Italy and Artistic Director of the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Trento, Italy.)

In the arts, the transition from figurative to abstract depiction is predominantly connected to the 20th century. It is, however, true that there have been aesthetical expressions of the past which could be described as abstract painting as well, for example the attempts to depict atmospheric phenomena (William Turner) or generally more naturalistic phenomena (Water lilies by Monet) which contemporary critics have defined as “preinformal” and therefore abstract art.

Later on, Kandinsky and Klee considered abstraction to be an authentic form of spirituality. By overcoming post-impressionism and cubism a synthesis can be created which immediately, by means of colour, allows for a new way of perceiving a piece of art until it becomes like for Kandinsky an objective fact: emotion and spirituality really take form.

The Informal Movement, theoretically supported by Michel Tapié, finds it core content exactly in the absence of recognizable forms. If we think of the American Abstract Expressionism of De Kooning or Kline, we will find that it is in black and white, in the playful relationship of signs between positive and negative elements that the emotional power of abstract composition can be retraced.

In Italy artists like Morlotti, Vedova, Mandelli, Birolli, Burri, to mention just a few, choose the material magma to leave the traditional picture, to go beyond two-dimensionality, ideally and practically. A critic like Francesco Arcangeli defines some artists of that generation as “the last naturalists” and ends up drawing fire from other historians who retain this approach as something new and not as something closing the gap towards the “old”. Abstraction is by now not exclusively linked to specific artistic movements in Europe, the United States and in Asia anymore, it not merely represents a form of evolution, a change of the generation of the second postwar period, but it expresses an extensive feeling which has never been as fervent as today.

It is not a coincidence that in the coexistence of styles, orientations, poetics and paths, which are all different from each other, abstract art has been alive in artists of different generations and renews itself from the memories of the “founding fathers” to the very last generations.

The study of the artists who for example use new technologies also makes clear that sign, colour, and light in abstract art are assets, focus of attention and research which clearly indicate that a lot can still be done in this direction.

So the sense of painting must not be doubted nor must we doubt the choice of one stylistic approach or another, it all comes down to the question of the ethic of painting. What is more, nowadays it seems more important to study history starting from geography, since closeness and distances have led to changes whose outcome we have to face everywhere. Economic and political events, trade routes, the big enterprises connected with the discovery of new worlds are the key to finally understand the relationship between cultures, now that in arts positive contaminations and the most unscrupulous repercussions are expressed at full stretch.

The flow of life which passes does not induce to consider real failures, the breakdown of bonds between one civilization and the other. The concept of the sublime can be retraced in aesthetics throughout centuries, Burke, Kant, Schiller, Barnett Newman, philosophers, writers, artists have talked about it, and today it is still being talked about, with a changed meaning: a category of the spirit which overcomes historical and geographical boundaries.

Diana LoMeiHing is born in Hong Kong. She moved to Europe, to Milan, where she studies at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and graduates with a degree thesis on the “Image of Buddha” in India and China. She studied the artistic traditions of the East, does research in France. She wrote books, she illustrated books, she has written screenplays for the Italian RAI broadcasting company, she has created textile design for a major Como-based company. It is this very interesting process of research which is expressed in the works of this exhibition, on canvas and on paper, some of them very recent and unpublished, which makes immediately clear that this artist has never set boundaries to her constant desire for experimentation. Her work, be it watercolor or on canvas, clearly conveys her urge to find spirituality and immediately makes us enter a deep dimension of ourselves. Her works show a high degree of culture and sensitivity, utterly personal, result of her open dialogue between the cultural heritage of the East and the West.

The series Quattro stagioni, Blu notte and many other pieces of work are able to evoke the subtle bond between personal experiences, those connected with her studies, life and the created suggestions. There is no antagonism between East and West, but instead you will find suggestive solutions of mediation and synthesis which take us to a world in movement, in a constant flow of emotions made of colours which are now soft, now shimmering or dark, of contrasting lights and shadows or of monochrome painting solutions of soft but insistent depth. Many worlds are gathered in an utterly personal stylistic manner which does not fear confrontation with other forms of abstraction because it is clear that the artist refers to herself, she has a good look at her own development every day. LoMeiHing seizes the material intrepidly, she gives it passion, she skillfully elicits stories from it, doing so with ever-growing expressive strength, very much like in Vltava/The Moldau by Smetana. In other works the texture is different, they show an unexpected decorativity, intentionally evocating the process of manual creation, using one’s hand with attentive patience. So we find ourselves in front of complex and articulate planning, clearly different from the expressions of Asian art which recently, in the last few years that is, have stepped onto the international stage and which, especially as far as painting is concerned, have shown poetics highly influenced by pop art as many shows have made evident, most of all the Biennale of Venice.

Let me quote one of my reflections published in a catalogue printed on the occasion of an exhibition on Chinese painting which I presented in 2005, a reflection which seems to be appropriate also in this case: …”Strongly aware of our western tradition and of the achievements we are priding ourselves upon we are often tempted to search for accordance, for affinities between artists who are all but related by blood. It can be an exercise or a thrilling treasure hunt, looking for the influence of schools”… and today I would add that individual identities are far more important than any attempt to trace things for their common origin.

Diana LoMeiHing is the perfect expression of a favorable cultural conjunction, an encounter between east and west in wide-range stylistic and poetic balance, which looks at art in its universal capacity to understand, to freely reflect without any cultural obligations or imperatives.

She emphasizes on the movement of gesture, on wise composition, on the inspiring involvement of the participatory spectators who take part in the vortex of her passion. And indeed, it is exactly in a work like Vortex where the successful synthesis of this transport can be seen, this movement which invites us to enter the deepest secret, in a gaseous atmosphere, enwrapping, spiral, where colour and gesture meet in a perfect way, without bleeding, without violent crashes but, on the contrary, in the midst of positive energy and in constant evolution.