UW-Washington County (UW-WC) is hosting The Elegant Gesture, an exhibition of Chinese art to coincide with the fall lecture series, Focus on China. The thirteen hand painted scrolls are from the collection of John M. Rohrer of Manitowoc. The artwork will be on display in the campus art gallery, located on the second floor of the campus adjacent to the theatre. The exhibit will be open for the first three Wednesday evening lectures in the Focus on China lecture series. These dates include September 28, October 5 and October 12 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. In addition the gallery will be open Friday evening, September 23 from 6:00pm to 9:30pm during The Roys bluegrass concert. Mr. Rohrer will be available on September 23 to answer questions about the collection. Admission to the art exhibit is free of charge.
Mr. Rohrer’s complete collection of Chinese artwork has been on display at The Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc as well as The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah. Mr. Rohrer, a former graphic arts teacher, is very knowledgeable about Chinese art. Each painting includes information about the artist and technique. Mr. Rohrer assembled the collection with some basic concepts in mind, including: “Art is not a product of man, it is a product of the universe expressing itself through man.” According to Mr. Rohrer, “This is the ideal that Chinese artists strive for in their artistic works.” He stated, “The first canon of Chinese art is that a painting must have life spirit.”
From grape leaves to landscapes, the exhibit beautifully captures a variety of 20th Century artists and Chinese brushwork techniques. One example is a beautiful splash ink landscape in hues of blue and green created by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). Daqian was intent on developing a new modern abstract style of Chinese painting. As his eyesight began to diminish in later years, he changed from a fine detailed method that had been used in the Tang Dynasty by the Chan inspired painters to a splash ink method. The new method of painting brought new life to Zhang Daqian’s art, creating its own energy as Zhang added the elements of a traditional Chinese landscape. In the history of Chinese painting, the landscape has always been foremost in order of recognition. Twentieth Century Chinese artists not only struggled with modernizing a 2,000 year old art method and history, but also struggled through times of oppression and imprisonment during repressive government policies.
In addition to Mr. Rohrer’s collection in the gallery, some interesting Chinese articles are also on display in the glass showcases outside the theatre. These items, from the travels of Marisue Zillig and her late husband, Matt, range from a colorful silk kimono to beautiful hand-carved figurines. The first lecture in the Community Lecture series is dedicated to Matt Zillig’s memory.
UW-Washington County is located at 400 University Drive in West Bend.