"Bridging key aesthetic and philosophical sensibilities of the Eastern artistic traditions to my Western context. Based on my several decade-long study of Chinese painting, I developed a new style of painting termed “Rope Painting,” so-named because I employ a rope saturated in ink in place of a brush."
Ross Lewis is an American artist and arts educator who is internationally known for creating art that engages with the Chinese literati tradition. With a deep-seated fascination for China and its culture, in his twenties Lewis began studying Chinese landscape painting, calligraphy, under the tutelage of notable artist/collector C.C. Wang in New York. Lewis’ interest in Chinese art, history, and Mandarin language, brought him to China and Taiwan, where he studied mounting at the National Palace Museum, and over the course of a decade he had the rare opportunity to visit and exchange ideas with some of the modern masters of Chinese painting, such as Li Keran and Cheng Shifa. As a result of these experiences, Lewis has come to develop a distinct visual language, which bridges key aesthetic and philosophical sensibilities of the Eastern artistic traditions to his Western context.
Transcending categorization by assimilating his training in both Western and Chinese painting, Lewis is now recognized for breaking new, universal ground in his artwork that evokes both traditions. In recent years, he has departed from the conventional use of the Chinese brush in the development of his Rope Painting Series, using instead an ink-soaked rope as his primary means of marking the paper surface. Richly textured and full of energy, Lewis’ rope paintings are a dazzling panoply of social, aesthetic and art-historical meaning. A personal diary of experiences, these paintings take on towering dimensions yet still evoke the subtle and sophisticated brushwork of literati painting. By developing these works into installation art, Lewis has been able to translate traditional literati concepts beyond the intimate personal space of ink painting, and into the public realm.
Ross Lewis’ first major academic solo exhibition in China, “Dancing with Rope”, was held at Beijing’s Today Art Museum in the Summer of 2015 and curated by distinguished art historian Dr. Shen Kuiyi. “Dancing with Rope” showcased approximately fifty works by the artist, including: his most recent “Rope Painting” series, a video installation of the artist’s monumental “Scroll Machine”, Lewis’ Chinese-landscape inspired paintings, archival materials of Lewis’ early studies with Chinese painters in Taiwan and China, as well as photographs and videos of Lewis’ installation projects from around the world. The exhibition was sponsored by the Embassy of the United States, Beijing. The exhibition traveled to the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Museum in Chongqing and the Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art in Guangzhou in the Fall/Winter of 2015. In 2016, Lewis exhibited his “rope paintings” at ArtCN Gallery in Shanghai in “Cut and Un-Cut: Ross Lewis and Cécile Girard in Conversation.” Scroll Machine, a hand-operated sculpture, was featured in a specially curated exhibition INK Plus at INK ASIA 2016, held at the Hong Kong Convention Center.
Lewis received a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. from Brooklyn College. Lewis exhibits his artwork internationally, and he has undertaken numerous public art commissions. His projects include Parallel Motion, a 96-ft long mural in Battery Park City; Dancing in Pink Snow, a mixed-media installation in a historic stable in Berlin, Germany; and Urban Intersections, a mural composed of 500,000 pieces of glass and ceramic tiles at PS 307 in Queens, New York.