Write Around PAM: Zhang Hongtu

Image description: After Shiato’s Landscape Album: Shitao-Van Gogh, from the series Ongoing Shan Shui. Zhang Hongtu. 2002. Oil on canvas. 48”H x 36”W. Colorful landscape of a river, plant-covered rock surfaces, a path leading to a building, and large mountain peaks in the background with fluffy white clouds above. There are thirteen columns with five black Chinese characters along the top with three red seals and four columns of several smaller black characters on the left with three red seals below. Multiple colors are layered together with distinct brush strokes. The clouds are fluffy and made up of white strokes with yellow, purple, and blue mixed in, and darker blue outlines. Below five rock peaks that are thin and rounded on top can be seen behind a large hill covered in greenery. At the base is a field of tall green reed-like plants. At the edge of the field is a white two-story structure with a dark brown roof. A white solid fence with golden vertical beams spaced evenly throughout sits in front of the structure with an arch that opens in front of the structure. A single tree with long branches and a few sparse leaves grows at the arched entrance. Yellow, gold, orange, and brown strokes are layered to create the ground around the fence. On the left and right borders, tall rock faces stretch nearly the length of the canvass and have various colors of greenery growing on the surface. Below, blue, green, and white dots make up the body of water that runs through the landscape. The reflection of the rocks and greenery can be seen in the water. On the right a narrow brown pathway with black steps runs between the rugged, plant-covered rocks. The brush strokes create a sense of movement throughout the painting - as if the clouds are rolling by and the greenery is blowing in the wind.

Zhang Hongtu’s Ongoing Shan Shui series explores categories of “East” and “West” in a distinctive way, reflecting his own life lived in two cultures. Here, he reimagines an album leaf by the great seventeenth-century artist Shitao—a small work in ink on paper—in the brilliant colors and brushwork of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.

Take a look at this landscape, and then close your eyes and take a deep breath. What do you notice in your body? What part of this painting can you still see in your mind? Does this image remind you of another place you’ve been? As you write, hold the energy and vivid beauty of this painting and this place in mind.

We have two prompts to help you get started. Set a timer for 12 minutes, try to keep your pen or pencil moving, and see what comes.

A bend in the river… / The mountains rose…

Zhang Hongtu, After Shitao’s Landscape Album: Shitao–Van Gogh, from the series Ongoing Shan Shui, 2002, oil on canvas, Gift of Judith B. Anderson, © Zhang Hongtu, 2017.31.1

Writing in community is powerful. We are grateful to our longtime partner Write Around Portland for the writing prompts and inspiration. You can revisit past posts and look for continuing posts on alternate Sundays. Please share your work with us!  @writearoundpdx @portlandartmuseum  #RespectWritingCommunity #WriteAroundPAM

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