Words by Aimin Liu, founder of ArtChina UK
We’re thrilled to share the great news that in November, one of the young Chinese artists in our collection, Cao Ou’s newest print series continuing his ‘Theatre’ Landscape theme was shortlisted for ‘The Fourth Muban Educational Trust Woodblock Printmaking Award’.
Image: ‘Theatre’ Landscape – Feature Mountain, Water-Based Woodcut, 45x60cm, 2019
Back in June, when I was visiting Cao’s studio in Hangzhou, he was telling me about his ideas for these new works, and he showed me some of his drafted drawings too. Now at end of this year, he not only finished his creations, but also won the award – what an achievement for him, especially while at the same time he has been busy creating, he has also been looking after his young baby.
Image: ‘Theatre’ Landscape – Machine Made, Water-Based Woodcut, 45x60cm, 2019
In the ‘Theatre ‘ Landscape series, the landscapes come from his imagination. They are his own abstract interpretations different from the classical Chinese landscape paintings; the visuals of landscapes in these works have a strong distinction from work created in the old days. This imaginative series, revealed to us by Cao, was created by using difference image coding, media, and methods.
Image: ‘Theatre’ Landscape – Analyse, Water-Based Woodcut, 45x60cm, 2019
Landscapes in Cao’s prints no longer represent nature in our reality; instead, viewers will discover big changes to our environment that have come from importing western culture, technology’s revolution, new techniques, pioneer philosophy, and the fast developments of the cities in China.
Image: ‘Theatre’ Landscape – Unfolded Structure, Water-Based Woodcut, 45x60cm, 2019
Image: ‘Theatre’ Landscape – Waterfall Mountain , Water-Based Woodcut, 45x60cm, 2019
This series has 18 prints. Cao had chosen five of them to participate the competition.
He used the traditional printing technique, called ‘Do Ban’ which dates back to the 17th century. Each of his prints used more than 10 pear wood blocks, and were hand-printed on Pi Paper (a type of bark paper) with water-based ink. This series continues and expands on the style of ‘flat design’ from his previous series which was titled ‘Construction Landscape’. This time, he also added narrative into each print, so that every print not only purely represents the landscape, but you also can also read a story or find more interesting details added into each of them. There are words, figures, animals, houses, and other variety of objects inserted in order to convey to the audience the dynamic relationships between our living environment today and us as human beings. They are meant to evoke further questions ‘How can we protect our blue planet for ourselves right now and for our future generations?’