Grandeur, abundance, panache

Awe and pleasure – large landscapes (some in small formats)

Soaring mountains, roaring cataracts pouring from unseen sources. The sustained flow of energy is a sign of the cornucopia and vigour of nature, of the fitness of systems. It may also serve as an allegory for the prosperous and well-ordered society, or of individuals at the peak of their capacities. Literati paintings often include small figures seeking out such places, or sitting in contemplation before them. The pathways of actual mountains in Anhui, Fujian and other places have likewise been organised to emphasize grand vistas and vertigo (and painting has had no small role in informing such landscape design).

Wuyi Shan, Fujian

Chinese painting developed towards and then away from more literal images of mountain ranges. By the time of the Ming literati, the gestural skeleton of the mountains is the primary concern, rendered on various scales. This serves as an armature for brushwork that is both descriptive of observed places and also independent of them. In the hands of different artists, landscapes range from austere and essentially abstract diagrams of geomancy, to emotionally complex spectacles built upon compositions of force and power.