Gajah Gallery Singapore is delighted to present Harmonious Tension, Wei Ligang’s second solo show at Gajah Gallery. The show invites viewers into the enchanting world of Wei, hailed as a pioneer of contemporary Chinese calligraphy.
Wei’s contemplative abstract paintings strike a delicate balance between chaos and calm. A student of both mathematics and Chinese calligraphy, he initially focused on traditional calligraphy, researching the traditional cursive style of the 17th-century calligrapher Fu Shan. But, by the 1990s, he developed an urge to “break down boundaries”, and experimented with more modern forms. Masterfully melding calligraphy and abstraction, he birthed a unique style, which is at once structured and spontaneous, ancient and contemporary.
Featuring 18 new paintings, Harmonious Tension turns the spotlight on how Wei captures harmony amid visual tension. Marrying rhythmic, meditative abstract shapes with the unrestrained, emotive strokes of traditional calligraphy script-forms, he creates an atmosphere that is both tranquil and deeply expressive. Through Wei’s paintings, viewers are invited to witness the interplay between vivid and muted tones, firm and delicate brushstrokes, and dynamic and serene compositions. ‘Tension’ appears not only in his forms, but mediums, too: gold acrylic paint recurs in these paintings, juxtaposing the black ink of the characters. While acrylic is unconventional in the calligraphic practice, the intruding medium, here, infuses freshness and vibrancy to a tradition dating back thousands of years.
These new works reveal Wei’s latest experimentations with his signature motifs. In 魏氏魔块·粉珮 and 魏氏魔块·蝶谷, for instance, he employs his iconic ‘Wei square’, where he deconstructs and reconstructs Chinese characters, abstracting their forms as they evolve into organic, amorphous shapes. Natural imagery—rocks, birds, bamboo branches—faintly appear, then fuse into bold and wild black strokes. The ‘squares’ that initially drew boundaries between these characters then blur and disappear. In 孔雀 · 1, 2, and 3, he builds on his ‘Peacock’ series, where he erases the characters completely and transforms them into irregular circles, outlined in gold. In 孔雀 · 1, the gold paint strokes of the outer circles crudely spill and reach towards the middle of the painting—as if striving for a sense of unity.
Harmonious Tension celebrates the understated beauty that emerges on the path to harmony—embracing not only fleeting moments of tranquillity and balance, but the tension and imperfections that often come with the process. Ultimately, it highlights the humanity at the core of Wei’s paintings: where thoughtful calculation and raw, individual expression coexist and flourish.