Master Shen-Long, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.

Visual Arts

The Crow Museum Debuts Master Shen-Long’s First Retrospective

The prolific Chinese artist, poet, and philosopher brings together traditional techniques and a modern aesthetic.

For decades, multidisciplinary artist Master Shen-Long has been cultivating new ways to blend traditional Chinese imagery and materials with contemporary ideas and mediums. Shen-Long’s artistic prowess covers a range of mediums, from oversized scrolls hundreds of feet long, to reversible ink painting and philosophical Chinese poetry. The Crow Museum of Asian Art in Dallas unveils a mid-career survey of his work, Future Retrospective: Master Shen-Long, this Saturday, June 1, 2019. The exhibition will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in Texas.

Installation view at the Crow Museum. Photo by Micah Flores.

One of the most striking features of the show is the utter distinctiveness of his work. Walking into the first gallery, the eye is immediately drawn skyward towards the 80-foot ink canvas displayed from the ceiling, titled “Ocean-Assembly Of Omniscient Dragon Tathagata.” The sheer size of the work is enough to stop the viewer in their tracks. Even more captivating, however, is the intricate detail that went into both the composition and the installation of the work.

The detail is somewhat difficult to discern from the floor, though a quick trip around to the back of the sandstone structure reveals the remaining cascade of canvas stretching to the floor. Now much closer to the eye, the ink strokes resembles waves of ebony and muted coral hues, a nod to the mention of “ocean” in the title. The seemingly limitless canvas drapes from the ceiling, physically forming a rippling, fluid effect.

Keep an eye out for dragon heads. You may be surprised where they emerge, some stark and domineering while others are almost indiscernible among layers of shimmering gold and ebony inks.

Master Shen-Long, “The Fundamental Essence Of The Universe Embraces All Beings,” 2007. Image Courtesy of the artist.

Descend the stairs into the second room, and you’ll find another ingenious gem (and a personal favorite). This hanging scroll rest to the left of the entrance on the wall connected to the stairs. From first glance, this piece looks like a traditional Chinese landscape. Dark mountains penetrate the sky, made ominous by areas of untouched paper manifesting as mist. Concentrations of ink juxtapose with the paper’s natural color to give the work texture and the appearance of rocky terrain.

Ah yes, everything seems to be in order…but what’s that? In the lower third of the foreground, towards the center, lives a naked woman, stylistically drawn. There’s nothing like a tasteful nude to get the imagination going. All joking aside, this piece is a wonderful representation of Master Shen-Long’s ability to blend classical Chinese discipline with his own modern individualistic style; something old, something new.

Future Retrospective: Master Shen-Long runs from June 1, 2019, to August 23, 2020. The exhibition flaunts several never-before-seen pieces, and the artist’s eclectic style promises something of interest for everyone. Admission is free.

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