Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann: Murmuration September 9 to October 10, 2023 Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. (52 O St NW #302)
Murmuration is an exhibition of mixed-media paintings and mosaics by Washington D.C.-based artist Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann. Working across collage, acrylic paint and sumi ink, Mann draws from traditions of Chinese and Western landscape painting, combining these diverse elements to create abstracted and maximalist fantasy spaces of incongruous harmony and ecological hope. The artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, Murmuration will be on view from September 9 to October 10, 2023, at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. location (52 O St NW #302).
In an ongoing process of investigation and growth, Mann’s practice conjures dilated environments, which beckon like portals to another world. Lush and full, Mann likens her paintings to mazes or gateways, encouraging dreamlike detours and a pleasurable lostness. Eschewing the perspectival sweep of a typical vista, her work creates balanced ecosystems through the aggregation of small elements, material and visual incongruity and layered substrates.
Originally trained as a traditional sumi ink painter, Mann’s practice works within and against both Chinese and Western landscape pictorial traditions, conjuring spaces of surprising collation and confluence. Within Transit, a new mosaic work, Mann choreographs a dance between materials, merging glass, ceramic, stone and found object mosaic with rice paper and acrylic collage. Layering and combining, among other elements, mosaic and traditional sumi ink painting on rice paper, Mann encourages a conversation between these two ancient, yet contrasting mediums. Challenging and combining perspectival and material approaches, Mann’s inventive spaces offer visions of fantastic incongruity, a disparate and unpredictable celebration of fragmentation.
Each of Mann’s paintings begins with staining—diluted paint or ink poured onto paper, in a process that naturally evaporates over several days. The chance marks that remain become the fluid foundation that the artist then embellishes with woodcut collage, botanical detail, decorative forms and harsh, geometric shapes. Cutouts in the shape of weeds native to the Washington, D.C. area, where the artist works, share space with chrysanthemums or plum blossoms sourced from the highly symbolic repertoire of Chinese painting. These precise forms play unexpectedly with the organic foundation of each work and the highly geometric conceits Mann imposes upon them. In the words of the artist, the contrasting strategies “contaminate one another” to create spaces with their own sense of gravity, ecology and space.
With Murmuration, Mann has embarked on a renewed foray into the potentiality of her materials and their relationships to one another. Works such as Swimming (2023) incorporate paper-folding, such as the Miuri-Ori fold, an origami tessellation that can be iterated repeatedly. The geometrically determined unevenness of the folds creates new ambiguities of flatness and perspectival depth as Mann shirks the straightforwardly placid picture-plane. It’s an element at home in her roster of trompe l’oeil effects, which distract or subvert expectations of formal precision and layering, encouraging the viewer to look closer, and become imaginatively involved with the making of each work.
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