• PIFO Gallery is delighted to present the exhibition ENCOUNTERS:John McLean • Wang Jian . This show marks the beginning of ENCOUNTERS, a new and ongoing series of exhibitions bringing together artists from Asia and the West. ENCOUNTERS will put its focus on abstraction in painting and explore the communalities and divergences of notions of painting by juxtaposing accomplished artists.


    John McLean is one of Europe`s most influential abstract painters whose work remains to receive the attention it deserves. At the core of McLean´s practice is paint, colour and shape. Influenced by American abstract expressionist painters, his work breathes Joan Miró’s innocent, unworldly quality and is free from incisive anxiety, instead featuring a touch of mysteriousness and reservedness which can also be found in Paul Klee. There is no trace of the deadly, religious atmosphere often found in abstract expressionist works. However one can clearly sense an inclusively humanistic spirit in McLeans works, that he shares with Pablo Picasso without succumbing to his tendencies towards indulgence and addiction. John McLean has refined his painterly vocabulary to its purest form.

    Wang Jian, a post-70s abstract artist, grew up during China’s reform period. His work has commanded considerable attention in recent years. Since he switched to abstract art around in 2007, his practice has been profoundly reflecting on individual transformation. His works are both, experimentation in an abstract pictorial language and a very intense and subtle psychological (self)investigation. Very often dominated by an “X-shaped” configuration, the picture planes of his works become membranes reverberating the anxieties of life in a condensed pictorial notation. Wang Jian´s wide-ranging abstract vocabulary has today reached its finest charismatic and dynamic manner.

    Although the artistic language and spiritual propositions of the two artists’ abstract paintings are largely different from each other, their works manifestly exhibit each their own psychological realities and also exquisitely touch upon a kind of genuine “trait of the times”. There is hope that the restlessness of the society may diminish bit by bit and the prevailing pressures of being “on“ at all times may wane. In other words, John McLean’s elegance and affectionateness imply a newly found authenticity of a post-existentialist European, Meanwhile behind the intense and obscure vocabulary of Wang Jian’s abstract paintings, there is a hint of the anxiety among many of the post-1970 artists who are getting more and more mature.

    The exhibition demonstrates that today, painting as a form of art is no longer a carrier of “avant-garde” or “contemporary” concepts. The regard for “beauty of form” has been eventually transformed into complex and intense psychological experimentation in painting. To explore and appreciate the spirituality of individuals as well as the “trait of the times“ in a rather concise visual form, is what both artists, John McLean and Wang Jian’s, abstract paintings share. This is the essentially distinctive proposition of the Encounters.


    ENCOUNTERS is a new and ongoing series of exhibitions bringing together artists from Asia and the West. ENCOUNTERS will put its focus on abstraction in painting and explore the communalities and divergences of notions of painting by juxtaposing accomplished artists.

    ENCOUNTERS takes its cue from a term originally coined by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychologist. In the 1960s Will Schutz at Harvard would further develop “Encounter” as “a method of human interaction based on openness and honesty, self-esteem and (self) responsibility”.

    PIFO gallery takes this approach beyond its therapeutic origins and explores such notions in artistic practice in Contemporary Art in Asia and the West from a Chinese vantage point with the goal to explore artistic undercurrents and synchronicities that resonate within the paintings of artist from different regions of the world.

    From its onset, abstraction in art was devised as an international humanistic language – an approach that today is being carried forward chiefly by some of the best artists in China. It is the goal of PIFO gallery to forge meaningful connections between them and their Western peers.



    PIFO Gallery
    86 10 59789562
    info@pifo.cn
    B-11, 798 Art Zone, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China, 100015


  • John McLean, British, b.1939 in Liverpool to Scottish parents. Lives and works in London.

    Colour is at the root of all McLean's paintings. He works on a large scale, painting spontaneously onto the canvas using fluid paints to make rhythmic abstract compositions. McLean has often cited Matisse and Miró exhibitions as having had a profound effect upon his work, through them he discovered ‘a much more sophisticated way of using shape.’ McLean’s shapes however are more formal, introducing a minor degree of narrative, offering the potential for any shape to be open to interpretation as a sign or metaphor. McLean regards the abstract elements in his work as being informed by external experience and having an emotional dimension. The influential American art critic and essayist Clement Greenberg was a great advocate of John McLean’s work.

    McLean studied at St Andrews University from 1957 to 1962 and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London from 1963 to 1966. McLean taught at various art schools in London from 1966 and had his first solo exhibition in 1975. He lived in New York in the late 1980s. McLean’s work can be found in many public collections, including Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and China Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum.

    Wang Jian, Chinese, b. 1972, Handan. Lives and works in Beijing.

    Wang Jian’s works could be considered as visual autobiographies. Everything and nothing are equally important to him and to his work. Every thought and feeling, his time in the studio and every other moment of his life, is compressed and held in the vast emptiness of his black canvases as well as in the small blank spaces he sometimes leaves unpainted. To some extent Wang Jian’s work could be defined in terms of Chinese Maximalism.

    Wang Jian’s ideas are fixed, complete and finished – almost in an instant as his practice often has a starting point in photography – and then fixed again in the pragmatic form of a painting. Yet many of his works are simultaneously in a state of continual flux and uncertainty. Many of his photographic ‘sketches’, artworks in their own right, also act as departure points for other works. The liminal – the fissures and areas of intense blackness in his paintings – all gesture at ‘nothingness’ and bring us full circle resolving Wang Jian’s practice once again into a coherent body of work that is simultaneously spiritual and sublime, relevant and provocative.

    As a young adult Wang Jian worked as a train driver while following a period of self-directed study – reading extensively on literature, art, history and Zen. He completed the Plastic Arts Studio course at the Chinese Painting Department, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 2003. His work, both abstract and minimal, refers his early exploration of Eastern philosophies and demonstrates in its maturity and sophistication, his growing interests in Western poetry and sociology.
    PIFO Gallery
    86 10 59789562
    info@pifo.cn
    B-11, 798 Art Zone, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China, 100015