Lightscapes: Re-envisioning The Shanshuihua

A style of landscape painting that was created over a 1000 years ago is evolving once again at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles in an exhibit called “Lightscapes: Re-envisioning the Shanshuihua.”

This style of landscape painting involves levitating objects and plastic boxes. The paintings are a contemporary take on mountain water painting or an ancient Chinese art style called “shan shui hua”.

The exhibit is a collaboration between artists Nick Dong and Chi-Tsung Wu. The artists hope to connect the digital generation with this traditional type of art. It forces spectators to slow down and experience the unique.

Both Dong and Wu are knowledgeable in both Chinese and Western art. For this exhibit, they used experimental materials and light. For example, one part of the exhibit involves a slow moving light that’s directed towards clear plastic boxes on the wall.

Called the Crystal City, Wu states that if you can see through the light and through the different perspective then you could see that there’s another world behind it. He referenced shadows that are more solid than the plastic boxes and reflect the modern digital age.

For parts of the exhibit, magnets are used to levitate objects. This represents that there is a force between everything in nature.

Another part of the exhibit is supposed to be a take on one’s relationship with the universe. Dong produced the work as his representation of heaven. It is a room filled with mirrors from ceiling to floor and one sole stool in the middle.

Both artists hope the exhibition captures visitors’ experiences the way ancient artists of landscape paintings intended to.