“Feng is always out of control when he paints, yet in the end he is actually in control of the whole painting.”—artist Chen Danqing

Born 1962, Shanghai. Lives and works in Beijing

Feng Lianghong uses paint and pencils, but his real medium is mess. He began developing the style he calls “random abstraction” after moving to New York City in the early 1990s. The graffiti he saw there reminded him of Chinese calligraphy, especially the cao (“messy”, or “grass”) style. Though created at high speed and with minimal conscious control, the best examples of both cao script and graffiti are powerfully expressive, with an internal coherence that counters their formal disorder. Seeking a similar balance between chaos and harmony, Feng Lianghong—who says he is also influenced by abstract expressionism and Zen philosophy—began experimenting with all kinds of artistic untidiness: splashing, daubing, scribbling, scratching, smearing. He tries to paint in what he describes as “a meditative state of pure awareness” that bypasses critical reason. The objective is a painting that dictates its own form, one in which random elements and clashing rhythms coalesce, under the artist’s eye and hand, into a calmly integrated whole.

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