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Tai Xiangzhou. "Lonely Rock at the Beginning of Time" from the series "Cosmic Symphonies," 2017/18. Collection of Tai Xiangzhou.

Tai Xiangzhou (泰祥洲) is a Chinese ink painter from Beijing. His current exhibition, Cosmoscapes, is on view now at the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s fantastic.

Tai was born in 1968 in Yinchuan. He earned a doctorate degree from Tsinghua University—a school many refer to as “the Harvard of China,” with the philosopher Bao Lin.

His paintings marry his interests in Song dynasty landscapes and classical Chinese cosmology.

“The dichotomy of the east versus west no longer exists, only the past and present, because in reality we all live in the same world. It takes only a little more than a half-day to fly from Beijing to New York; we are living in a compressed space. Living in such a space we are more easily drawn to our inner world and tend to express deep thoughts as art,” says Tai.

Cosmoscapes is an exhibition of 14 works on display throughout the Art Institute of Chicago. The show offers a tour of Tai’s impressive skill, as flawlessly rendered ink on antique silk, paper, hand scrolls, leaves, and large screens demonstrate a fastidious adherence to the language of Chinese ink painting.

The work is anything but traditional. Rocks fly through space, landscapes turn abstract, perspective is reimagined as it might exist in another realm or another time. Tai’s ink paintings modernize the Song dynasty painter’s fascination with mountains and water.

Tai Xiangzhou. “Traveling amid Streams and Mountains,” 2013. Private collection.

“Human means of transportation have made real mountains and real waters no longer mysterious. This is why I create celestial and cosmological landscape paintings,” Tai explains.

Tai is a master of ink. He trained as a calligrapher and spent time working as a paintings conservator at the Palace Museum in Beijing. His technical ability allows him to present a world that is simultaneously ancient and futuristic. “I can express my thoughts more completely by using ink and paper,” he says.

Cosmoscapes in on view at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 20, 2021.