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Song of the Ancient Birds

11.25 - 12.17, 2016


Tang Contemporary Art is proud to announce the opening of “Ling Jian: Song of the Ancient Birds” on November 25. In seven all-new paintings, Ling juxtaposes or layers images from bird painting manuals held at the Forbidden City with gongbi and realist portraits of women. After being tempered by the artist's personal experience, these two seemingly disparate languages achieve immense harmony of visual expression and aesthetic sensibility.


Ling Jian's new works are inspired by chance encounters with music and painting. The German rock band Rammstein has a heavy metal song entitled “Ohne Dich" (“Without You”) about love and death. One of the lyrics is “Ohne dich… Und die Vögel singen nicht mehr” (“Without you… the birds sing no more”). Ling Jian heard this song while shopping in a flea market, where he also chanced upon a bird painting manual from the Forbidden City. In that moment, the gongbi paintings of birds in this manual and Rammstein's song collided and blended in time and space, producing a special emotional connection. With this unexpected encounter, Ling Jian chose to fuse gongbi bird painting with contemporary painting techniques, continuing his recent experiments with related artistic questions.


In Falling Ancient Birds, the overlapping and intersecting forms of birds were drawn from painting manuals made by the masters of the Kangxi and Yongzheng reigns. The feathers of different types of birds extend in different directions, as if they were passing from the tranquility of the Forbidden City into a realist figure, in order to create a new context. This work embodies the conflicts and fusions that took place at the moment of creation, transcending the logic of time.



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Guanxiu: Gold  贯休-金

Guanxiu: Gold 贯休-金

Kindred Birds 合璧鸟

Kindred Birds 合璧鸟

Falling Ancient Birds  墜落的故鳥

Falling Ancient Birds 墜落的故鳥


Ling Jian


Born 1963

Shandong, China


Ling Jian currently lives and works in Beijing and Berlin. After receiving his degree from the Tsinghua University Academy of Art and Design (formerly the Central Academy of Art and Design) in 1986, he lived in Vienna, Hamburg, and Berlin for many years, returning to Beijing in 2006. Due to the realism of his depictions and the exaggeration of his forms, Ling Jian became known for his provocative and unsettling portraits of women. Through these attractive portraits, Ling explores themes of culture and individual thought in modern society.

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