• Wesley Tongson: Untitled, Spiritual Mountain series, 2012; ink on paper, finger painting; 96 x 49 in.

Spiritual Mountains: Curator's Circle Tour and Reception

Open to Curator’s Circle members at the $1,000 level and above.

Please join fellow Curator's Circle members for a festive reception to celebrate the opening of Spiritual Mountains: The Art of Wesley Tongson. The exhibition debuts a recent gift to BAMPFA of eleven paintings by the Hong Kong artist Wesley Tongson (1957–2012). The evening will include an exhibition tour led by Julia White, BAMPFA’s senior curator of Asian art. Julia will be joined by Wesley Tongson's sister, Cynthia Tongson, for a discussion of her late brother's life as an artist. The tour will be followed by an outdoor reception.

Space is limited, and reservations will be made on a first come, first served basis. Kindly RSVP to Masha Berek at mberek@berkeley.edu by Tuesday, January 14. 


Wesley Tongson's work draws heavily on traditional Chinese painting techniques and processes, including painting with his fingers and hands, but takes these a step further to create a personal expression that is wholly his own. This exhibition combines Tongson’s works with historic paintings from BAMPFA’s extensive Chinese painting collection to demonstrate the relationship between his genius and that of past masters. Throughout Tongson’s practice, we perceive a strong admiration and acknowledgement of the past, even as he pursued a new direction in his own work. It is in his highly lyrical brushwork and exuberant style of painting—which included large-scale landscapes and intricately patterned, dense examinations of the natural world—that we comprehend his range and genius.

The exhibition’s title reflects the importance of spirituality in Tongson’s journey as an artist; he was a student of many forms of devotion, from the teachings of Buddhism, Daoism, and Christianity to references to the natural world. His later paintings are frequently inscribed “Mountain Daoist” (Shandao Daoren), while some of his painting series are given titles of Spiritual Mountains and Mountains of Heaven.

Tongson’s experimentation in painting with his hands and fingernails finds precedence in the works of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century masters like Gao Qipei (1672–1734), while his dramatic use of splash color treatment seems in harmony with Zhang Daqian’s (1889–1983) work of the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition includes works by these artists, other historical painters who may have provided inspiration, such as Shitao (1642–1718) and Li Fangying (1695–1754), and modern painters who were more directly involved in his development, including Liu Guosong (born 1932), with whom he briefly studied, and his teacher and mentor Huang Zhongfang (Harold Wong) (born 1943).

Chinese painting is Senior Curator for Asian Art Julia White’s primary field of expertise. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the recent groundbreaking BAMPFA presentation Repentant Monk, which focused exclusively on the late Ming painter Chen Hongshou. For Spiritual Mountains, Julia had the opportunity to combine her deep interest in classical Chinese painting with the work of the great but not well-known modern painter Wesley Tongson.

Cynthia Tongson is the guardian of and advocate for the legacy of her late brother, Hong Kong artist Wesley Tongson. She is a supporter of the Asian Art Archive in America and Asian Cultural Council (Hong Kong), and she currently serves on the boards of the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco and BAMPFA.