Calling to Mountains

by Elaine Suyu Liu (Translation by Timothy Chang)

Su Chung-ming’s landscapes leap off the paper and call to the mountains outside
Seemingly speaking a thousand words, but spoken in solemn silence
The worries of the world are lost beyond the sky

Aesthetic theorist Zong Baihua (1897–1986) introduced in An Aesthetics Anthology that the most profound sentiment in Chinese painting is “to silently be molded by and thus become one with the infinite reality of nature and space.” Zong believes that the universe revolves in accordance with the laws of nature, seemingly still but ever changing, and in that a life that is one with nature is also seemingly tranquil but ever evolving.

Su Chung-ming’s landscapes are filled with rising mountains, misty clouds, winding paths, and flowing waterfalls; all tightly intertwined, surreal, and otherworldly. Although devoid of human figures, the natural elements in Su’s composition are active and teaming with life, and at the same time give the viewer a sense of calm and serenity. This is achieved by clever brushwork in relation to the composition, in which dots and lines, washes of ink, and the use of colour are carefully rendered through the principles of positive and negative space. Solids and voids are juxtaposed, movement is reflected in stillness, and calligraphic brushstrokes are met with subtle splashes of colour. Aside from these techniques, the landscape itself is attributed to the personal cultivation of the artist. A restless mind cannot create a landscape of this kind! One’s painting is like one’s person, and one’s person is like one’s painting. Su Chung-ming is calm and restrained, with a keen mind, delicate observation, and a profound appreciation of the natural world. Su creates not only a landscape, but a world within, where the painter and subject become one, which evokes Zong Baihua’s statement that “a painter shares an understanding with nature, so hidden within the painting is a kind of solemn silence.”