Among other Chinese artists have found a connection in Tasmania are Guangdong-born Chen Ping, whose oil painting, in bold brush strokes, of Chinese tin miners in Tasmania in the 1870s was an official gift to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his 2014 visit to the island.
With his oil and ink paintings on display in galleries from Hobart to New York, and hundreds of solo and group exhibitions Australia-wide – as well as in China and Hong Kong – under his belt, the 56-year-old has been the recipient of several Arts Tasmania grants.
In the 25 years he has lived in Tasmania, the purity of the landscapes have become his inspiration.
“China is an ancient place that has been polluted and eroded over time, while Tasmania’s preserved nature allows people to connect with their spirituality,” he says.
Chen talks of the Chinese classic text Shan Hai Jing. “Written two to three thousand years ago, it describes the world replete with unseen mountains, oceans and animals,” he says.
Instead of merely romanticising those scenes, he feels he’s living them in Tasmania.
“Most of the time I am alone in the mountains, experiencing untouched landscapes – old-growth forests, mountain lakes and rivers, and wild animals including Tasmanian devils and wombats.
“Thinking about the relationships between humans and nature, it makes me wonder how the primitive Chinese would react to the raw beauty of Tasmania, which could well have existed many thousands of years ago.”
A lot of his more recent work consists of bright pastel pieces, depicting heads and figures, composed of a multitude of signs and symbols, with enigmatic titles: Long Life, Emolument, Fortune, and Green Light, Red Flowers. Some seem to criticise materialistic Chinese culture, while others sing the praise of Tasmanian flora and fauna.
Like Chen, Chinese artists in Tasmania appear to be realising themselves by crossing cultures while returning to their roots.