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Zhang Hongtu’s work returns to Lehigh

Zang Hongtu's landscape scroll paintings will again be displayed in Packer Church.

The work of internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Zhang Hongtu, whose monumental Chinese landscape scroll paintings were featured during Lehigh’s ArtsFest in early April, returned to Lehigh for one week in mid-April.

Hongtu’s world-premiere installation, titled “The Four Seasons: Heaven Below and Earth Above,” debuted in Packer Memorial Church during the final evening of ArtsFest, the week-long premiere event of Lehigh's comprehensive ArtsLehigh program. It was unveiled to the accompaniment of a concert and a performance by the university choir and orchestra. It will be reinstalled in Packer Memorial Church and open to the public for four additional days, one week later.

Zhang Hongtu’s large scrolls, which blur the boundaries between east and west by recreating famous Chinese landscape paintings in the style of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, were again installed by a group of Lehigh engineering and Design Arts students. The cultural convergence of these works is heightened by their dramatic, and sculptural, placement amidst the stained glass in the collegiate Gothic Packer church.

“These are extraordinary learning opportunities, not only for the students who had the chance to work alongside the artist, but for those who can take advantage of a rare opportunity to be exposed to his art,” said Silagh White, administrative director of the university’s ArtsLehigh program, which debuted early in the 2005-06 academic year.

Norman Girardot, University Distinguished Professor of Religion Studies and faculty director of ArtsLehigh, noted that Zhang was so moved by his experience at Lehigh and the powerful response to his work that he graciously agreed to the paintings return for a second installation.

“He was very happy that we hung the paintings again so that others will have the chance to see them in the spectacular setting of the chapel,” Girardot said. “Zhang is one of the first fully global artists of the 21st century, and a member of an increasingly popular wave of Chinese contemporary artists who seem to be ahead of the world these days. We’re very fortunate to have forged this relationship with him.

“His work,” he adds, “is not only beautiful—and beauty still has a role to play in art—but also has a conceptual edge. As one of our professors noted, there are layers and layers of meaning in his work, which makes it extremely interesting in an interdisciplinary and aesthetic way.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Photo by Theo Anderson

Posted on Friday, April 14, 2006

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