• Installation view of Tu Hongtao at the Long Museum in West Bund

    Installation view, Tu Hongtao: A Timely Journey, Long Museum West Bund, Shanghai, 2018.

Tu Hongtao

Tu Hongtao

Born in Chengdu, China, in 1976, Tu Hongtao was admitted to the affiliated high school of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 1991. He later graduated with a specialization in oil painting from the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou in 1999. Completing his formal education on the eve of the millennium, the artist began his career during an era of swift transformation in his country—one that signaled the end of its collective economy and the rise of the market economy and globalization.

After art school, Tu was briefly employed in the textile industry in southern China. In 2001, he returned to Chengdu to focus on painting. Observing the rapid social and environmental changes in his hometown, he began to compose sardonic cityscapes featuring piles of human bodies and dolls that reflect contemporary feelings of confusion, tension, and desire. In addition to manifesting the anxieties of Tu’s generation, these early canvases established his ongoing engagement with cross-cultural histories of landscape painting. He continued with the Snow Forest series from 2006 to 2008, using the density of these landscapes as “both an abstract background and a real space,” in his words.

From 2008 to 2010, Tu reoriented his painting practice, veering further from his earlier Neo-Pop trajectory. Having studied calligraphy as well as both Eastern and Western painting traditions, Tu turned to Zhao Mengfu’s (1254–1322) theory of “applying calligraphy to painting” (yi shu ru hua, 以书入画)—a pivotal development that shifted the direction of traditional painting in the Yuan Dynasty. Observing the abstract spirit of Chinese literati painting, Tu both examined the organically evolving relationship between image and formal technique and challenged the aesthetics of Western painting to which he was accustomed.

Tu frequently visited the mountainous Bifeng Valley in Ya’an, Sichuan, for inspiration during this period, adopting recurring motifs from the surrounding terrain. In the resulting works, Tu focused on the physicality of his brushstrokes and the “spirit of the ink” that generally permeates paper, incorporating the importance of “writing” a composition in lieu of merely illustrating an image. The formal qualities of Tu’s picture plane evoke those of Qing Dynasty painters Shitao (Zhu Ruoji, 1642–1707) and Gong Xian (1619–1689). His paintings have gradually metamorphosed from incorporating a mimetic Western three-dimensional space to suggesting an illusionistic “inward psyche” that blurs reality and imagination.

Since 2010, Tu has presented increasingly complex compositions that repeatedly layer a single landscape, poetically rearranging the temporal expectations embedded in such a scene. Tu’s alma mater, the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, has played an indispensable role in the history of modern Chinese art, nurturing figures such as Lin Fengmian (1900–1991) and Wu Dayu (1903–1988), pioneers of modern Chinese painting who integrated Chinese and Western styles, as well as Zao Wou-ki (1920–2013), Chu Teh-Chun (1920–2014), and other second-generation Chinese artists in Paris, whose experiments in abstraction furthered the course initiated by Lin and Wu. Informed by this rich art-historical legacy, Tu’s imagery interrupts linear narratives and employs an expansive use of space in the context of Eastern and Western visual traditions, embodying a contemporary abstract lyricism all his own.

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Selected Works

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  • an abstract painting of a landscape

    Tu Hongtao. Goddess of Luo River,  2016-18. Oil on canvas. 180 x 560 cm. Photo: Kitman Lee © Tu Hongtao

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  • an abstract painting in blue, green, and beige

    Wander II
    2016-2017
    Oil on canvas
    170 x 120 cm
    © Tu Hongtao

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  • an abstract painting

    A Horse of All Things
    2014-2018
    Oil on canvas
    210 x 320 cm
    © Tu Hongtao

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  • abstract painting of green and gold on a white background

    Birds Tweet through the Forest
    2017-2018
    Oil on canvas
    180 x 280 cm
    © Tu Hongtao

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  • an abstract painting in yellow and green

    Darkness My Old Friend
    2013
    Oil on canvas
    210 x 320 cm
    © Tu Hongtao

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  • an abstract painting with warm red/pink on a cool blue/grey background

    Wind Through The Valley
    2018-2019
    Oil on canvas
    130 x 110 cm
    © Tu Hongtao

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Exhibitions

Other Exhibitions

Selected Press

Artnet | 厉为阁宣布代理屠宏涛:这家蓝筹画廊有怎样的“亚洲布局”?

October 14, 2019

近日,蓝筹画廊厉为阁(Lévy Gorvy)宣布将全球代理中国艺术家屠宏涛,这是该画廊代理的第一位中国在世艺术家。屠宏涛1999年毕业于中国美术学院油画专业,目前工作、生活在成都,通过在绘画中对风景和抽象绘画的表达,持续探索图像与技法之间有机的发展演化关系。

Art Forum | TAIPEI DANGDAI AND NADA MIAMI ANNOUNCE EXHIBITORS, TU HONGTAO JOINS LÉVY GORVY, AND MORE

October 4, 2019

Lévy Gorvy announced the gallery’s worldwide representation of the Chinese artist Tu Hongtao. Based …

Artnet | Art Industry News: Top Los Angeles Art Patrons Donate $750 Million to Bankroll Climate-Change Research + Other Stories

October 1, 2019

Lévy Gorvy Now Represents Tu Hongtao

Art News | ARTnews In Brief: Gwangju Biennale Reveals Partial Artist List for 2020 Edition and More from September 27, 2019

October 1, 2019

Lévy Gorvy, which has spaces in New York, Zürich, London, and Hong Kong, now represents Chinese painter …

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