Modern & Contemporary Chinese Art
Xu Lele (Chinese, b. 1955)
Where Is the Bell?, 1990
fan, ink, and color on paper
Gift of Red Rock Studio, Hong Kong, A Williams Alumnus
Photo by Jim Gipe-Pivot Media and Stephen Petegorsky
Xu Lele (b. 1955, Nanjing) is a member of the School of New Scholar Painting, a group of artists in Jiangsu province dedicated to rediscovering Chinese artistic traditions. Historical texts on Chinese art frequently classified paintings by the social status of the artist. Traditional scholar painting refers to works painted by highly educated and cultivated scholars. Emerging at a time in the 1980s when Chinese artists were turning away from tradition and moving toward Western art, the New Scholar Painting movement strove to make traditional scholar painting relevant to contemporary times. To this end, Xu employs long-established painting techniques and formats such as the painted fan shown here. With her clear, soft touch she depicts ancient scholars and environments while also expressing pleasure in the act of painting and aspects of her daily life.
Xu inscribed the fan with two lines from “Visiting the Temple of Gathered Fragrance,” a poem by Wang Wei (701–761). Translation of the calligraphy, right to left:
Ancient trees, paths without people;
Deep in the mountains, where is the bell?
1990, by Le.