“Harmonic Collaboration: Bill Claps & Lin Gang”

Art 33 Gallery, Hangzhou, China

January - May 2019

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和乐    “Harmonic Collaboration” Bill Claps and Lin Gang

Introduction by curator Lydia Duanmu

When the Chinese people in the Song Dynasty reveled in their traditional orchestral music, they had no idea that the Byzantine art on the other side of the world was beginning to shift from realism to abstract naturalism. This shift was the result of the influence on Byzantine culture of Eastern mysticism, which derived artistic inspirations from nature and the natural state of the universe as the ultimate source of beauty. These artistic inspirations of truthfulness, harmony and metaphysics stimu- lated the imagination and creativity of the Byzantine artists. 

This influence of Eastern mysticism on Byzantine art and culture was not apparent to the people of that time, it was understood only by the higher powers.  Now, thousands of years later, two cultural worlds are brought together in an age where higher powers's vision may be seen by all. On January 20, 2019, Eastern artist, Lin Gang, and his Western counterpart, Bill Claps, meet in Hangzhou, China, to present an art exhibition, Harmonic Collaboration, which unites the artistic expression of East and West. 
Bill Claps is a dual Italian and American New Yorker and a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied painting and art history. As a visual artist, filmmaker and writer。

Starting with his artwork 'Natural Abstractions', which he processes digitally and prints in black and white, Claps then applies a layer of gold foil to the images, utilizing a unique process he developed. This technique recalls the Byzantine gilding practices, updated for the 21st century by combining them with photographic and digital processing technologies. 

Claps' works in the Natural Abstractions series are his contemporary interpretations of nature motifs used and repeated by many generations of Chinese landscape painters and printmakers. These works evoke a sense of the brush strokes, musicality and spiritual content of Chinese calligraphy, together with the spiritual evocation of Chinese landscape painting. Taoisit and Buddhist sentiments are evoked through his unique visual language, which invites the viewer to perceive the beauty of invisible spaces. In referencing this history,

Claps creates dynamic images that live in balance between figuration and abstraction, expressionism and impressionism. 
For this exhibition, Bill Claps created abstracted mixed media artworks that use fragments of classical Chinese poetry, translated into Morse code, as their source material. The Morse symbols move through the works with the musicality and cadence of musical notes. The highly textural artworks incorporate printing, painting and digital technology to provide a contemporary interpretation of classical Chinese landscape painting. 

Lin Gang, President of the Hangzhou Sculpture Institute, was born in Hangzhou, China, and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Lin's art, imbued 

with all his heart and soul, is not only captivating, but very playful as well. Lin's use of abandoned wood boats, scavenged cardboard boxes, scrapped factory cogwheels, and rocks from Lake Tai, demonstrate this playful and imaginative medium he has created. In a sense, Lin is a practitioner of romantic naturalism. His sculptural language gives artistic life to his dreams. 

Lin's sculptures convey a strong sense of history and nostalgia. The generous use of the elegant red-black lacquer ware of the State of Chu (770 and 223 BC, present-day Hubei Province of China), the boldly outlined strings of ancient zithers from the Period of Warring States (475 to 221 BC), and traces of the Industrial Revolution, are revealed in Lin's works and create a profound and powerful vitality in his sculptures. "I seem to dream of melodies wafting by, that sob and throb . Resembling a trembling sigh, I hear a clear, sweet note afloat, Re-echoing love -songs of old." 

Lin's artistic dream assumes the shape of an instrument in his imagination. This instrument, which resembles an ancient zither, but is an original creation that exists only in Lin's mind, has elements derived from many sources - ancient times, yesterday and today, western and eastern. These historical and cultural combinations inspire a spirit that touches life and expresses emotions from the music played on the instrument of Lin's dreams. The music of his life is a metaphor expressed by the vision of a sky filled with lonely soaring clouds accompanied by wafting melodies that carry Lin's dream on forever. 

Although they come from different cultures and nations, Lin Gang and Bill Claps are artists who are united in their reverence for history and nature. They share the  same root - the root of nature and Eastern philosophy. Their works share the same rhythm of music - revealed in Lin's sculptures and in Bill's paintings. And they share the same spirit - the noble and time-honored spirit of metaphysics. 

This is a world filled with the echo of the musical notes of universal equality - a true Harmonic Collaboration. 

---策展人端木雅莉   Lydia Duanmu