Among the specialties of Wang Mansheng are lotus ponds dense with giant leaves in seductive brown and black cradling brilliant red lotus blossoms. The lotuses–summer’s most magnificent flowers—emerge in the paintings of Mansheng from the muddy colors of the leaves suggests the significance of the lotus in Chinese thought, a symbol of purity, integrity, and perfection as the flower rises from muddy soil, upward into the light, uncontaminated. The present vertical scroll is a departure from the horizontal formats Mansheng normally uses for this subject, such as those now gracing the Baltimore Museum of Art and private collections as well. The image here successfully and strikingly conveys both the organic nature of the lotus, which blooms during the summer months, and also the compelling abstract qualities of color and form. Mansheng does not tire in experimenting with formats and materials, including various types of ink and paper, and, in the present painting, ink that the artist created from burnt walnut shells to produce the warm brown color provides counterpoint to the traditional black ink and burst of vibrant red.
Wang Mansheng came from humble beginnings in Taiyuan, Shanxi province where he began a study of Chinese calligraphy and painting at the age of seven, becoming a refuge for the young teenager during the Cultural Revolution. He entered Fudan University in Shanghai and studied classical Chinese literature and painting. After graduation in 1985 from Fudan University in Shanghai, he worked at China Central Television in Beijing, producing documentaries on the art and culture of China and Tibet. In 1996 he immigrated to the United States and began life as an artist and today lives an immensely creative but relatively quiet life with his family in the Hudson River Valley outside of New York City.