Burnt Offerings

     How to move forward when anchored in a centuries old tradition? How to break free on wings laden with overwhelming expectations?

     Wang Tiande did it with head bowed in respect for his ancient culture, and with his eyes set high on the firmament of contemporary art.

     Without forsaking traditional Chinese tools of brush, ink and paper, he has transcended established parameters – both conceptual and physical – creating a body of work that is at once a testament to one man’s unwavering vision and spirit of commitment, and an illustration of the astounding changes transforming China, including its art.

     Tiande’s use of Chinese paper has taken the ancient material into a contemporary realm, presenting echoes of traditional art in a new form, punctuating as it were this important expansion without losing touch with the past.

     Deeply rooted in the mastery and finesse of Chinese aesthetic, Tiande produces series of works that speak a sophisticated and unbearably subtle visual vocabulary, each a transformation in both time and space.

     He is working against a backdrop of profound discussions on the place of art in modern China, and the pull of tradition is powerful. Yet with artistic diplomacy, Tiande’s transforming process is taking place with great fluidity and avoidance of dramatic gestures.

     His spectacular Chinese Garment series is both an homage to traditional Chinese dress, and an evocation of the spirit of the future in a pattern of seared symbols.

     Delicate and monochromatic, Tiande’s paper dresses were born of a simple and most unusual process; one that was both intentional and accidental. While the format of the works had as its matrix the straightforward shape of the dress, - they were actually sewn in a factory by young women wearing similar garments, - the rice paper they were made of, however, was subjected to a more sophisticated treatment. The lettering in Tiande’s works is achieved with ash gently and patiently dripped onto it, the words forming like burnt offerings.

     It is fascinating to imagine the contemplation involved in the process, the controlled physicality of the gesture, the smoke and the scent, all prerequisites of an altar.

     The sacred is further accentuated in the Digital Series, where vertical sheets of paper recall ancient scrolls, and whose title has little to do with technology – although the connection is undoubtedly fortuitous – and all aptly to do with the digit, hand-made as they are.

     The same method is used to produce these works, with two sheets of Chinese paper forming a beguiling three-dimensional space. Without the aid of help this time, Tiande paints and burns ancient poetry in barely decipherable symbols onto the paper that gently undulates, shifting and altering the image.

     These works, like the previous series, are the young artist’s continued statement speaking of respect for the past, for calligraphy in this case, and for the importance of finding a place for it in the ever-changing, globalized reality.

     Few contemporary artists invest their creative process with such complex and difficult issues, as do those in modern China. Tiande’s brilliant fusion of the old with the new, combined with his involvement in the intellectual and academic discussion of the day, imbues his art with a unique spirit.

     Beyond the unavoidable analysis that his works provoke, lays the magical realm of beauty and aesthetic, and in this, too, Tiande has no equal.

     The scrolls in Digital Series present art at its finest, perfectly balanced, almost classical in its geometric, traditional form, teasing the eye with the seared edges of Chinese symbols through which other fragments of verse appear, ever so briefly.

     The texture of the paper, enclosed behind glass like a frail relic, offers its own universe, and the whole rests in quiet harmony, the mark of Tiande.


The superior man bends his attention to what is radical.

That being established, all practical courses naturally grow up.

--Confucius (551-479 B.C.)


Dorota Kozinska