When Kang Haitao made the turn to landscape painting around 2005, he went through a period of deep introspection, concerned with the interrogation of the ‘contemporariness’ of his work. Between academic value and his own inner experience, he opted for the latter without hesitation. From his initial nightmarish nightscapes, to the abstract or faded everyday landscapes, and to his recent imagistic landscapes that absorb the sophisticated experience of viewing pre-existing imagery, all these are the landscapes seen through the eyes of a restless witness.
Kang Haitao’s work is closely connected with the sense of hopelessness that seems to pervade China in the 21st century – first the disillusionment of idealism, next the failure of sarcastic deconstruction and criticism and finally the loss felt after the collapse of western cultural idols. This hopelessness is so powerful that all the passion for witnessing distinct meaning and value could be lost; however, obscure and profound poetic experiences, when strong enough, such as those presented in the work of this art, can help resist the ruthless corrosion of nihilism.
From this point of view, Kang Haitao’s thought-provoking landscapes are the spiritual narratives, full of wisdom and passion, of what many feel is a ‘voiceless’ era.
Text | Fang Zhiling (The Curator)