“I’m deeply influenced by traditional Chinese paintings—my work follows their rules,” explains Hao Liang as he slowly unfurls a recently completed ink painting on a 15-metre-long silk scroll. “I even acquire old inks from auctions so my work can have the same quality as those historical ink paintings. Ancient inks are of a higher quality due to stricter standards.” The 32-year-old artist incorporates not only the traditional techniques of ink painting, but also the visual language. “My work connects history and the present. In contemporary Chinese society, we are disconnected from traditional Chinese culture,” he explains.
Sombre washes of colour fill the scroll as a detailed landscape unfolds. But this is no traditional landscape. It’s apocalyptic—a violent fairy tale and a dystopian allegory. A savage flood, all curlicues of beautifully detailed waves that consume fields, gives way to a Dante-esque scene as an inferno blazes across a mountainous landscape. Animals attempt to leap to safety and a robed skeletal figure stands atop a hill appraising the destruction around him. The works are indebted to the literati and landscape paintings of the 12th and 13th centuries, from which the artist derived much of his inspiration, but they also depict modern concerns about the environment and society, inviting contemplation on the relationship between man and nature.