The exhibition "Forms of Time. Tong Yanrunan and Giorgio Morandi", opening at Galleria d'Arte Maggiore g.a.m. in Bologna on Thursday 8 June, represents a new and important stage in the project that the Chinese artist has been dedicating to the tradition of portrait for 19 years. Already famous in China and present in some of the most important international museums, Tong Yanrunan travels in different countries realizing a maximum number of paintings for each exhibition. The slowness of execution is in fact an integral part of his work, as well as an experience of dialogue between the artist and the subject, turning almost into a performance, in opposition to the numerical titles of the paintings that recall the progressive codes of the pictures taken by a digital camera.
Born in 1977 in Jiujiang and working in Hangzhou, the artist realizes a series of portraits for each exhibition of some important and significant personalities of that place. These works are painted face to face, creating an intense and at the same time estranged relationship – the linguistic differences make the verbal communication impossible – which therefore turns into an abstract, powerful and pictorial act realized in the time of execution.
Tong Yanrunan interprets this opportunity in Bologna such as a homage to Giorgio Morandi, of which some works will be exhibited. Morandi is one of the Modern masters that Tong loves more, feeling the relationship that Morandi had with still lives similar to his own portaits choices on several counts.
As Flaminio Gualdoni writes in the exhibion catalogue: “The artist’s principal work lies in delineating the premise of the action, in unravelling ambiguities, conventions, the apparatus of the pretentious that is incrusted in the idea itself of the portrait, turning it into a representative prejudice and an ambiguous idée reçue. Tong Yanrunan’s expressive tension lingers over the canvas, as the undisputed master, with the ambition (that of a lifetime) of distilling into the painting not a face, but the face.”.
Integrating his practice in a pure Taoist style – there are so many references in his interviews to Zhăngzĭ – in the portrait's tradition, in its execution, in the laying time, in the line that doesn't use any preparatory drawing but that takes advantage only of brush strokes, we can feel the undisputed presence of that time and that tone mentioned by Francesco Arcangeli when he talks about Morandi's work.