Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann

My paintings show how patterned, highly-wrought, decorative elements coalesce from the chaos and contingency of an organic environment—and how they dissolve into that environment again. I begin each piece with a stain of color, the product of chance evaporation of ink and water from the paper as it lies on the floor of the studio. From this shape, I nourish the landscape of each painting, coaxing from this organic foundation the development of diverse, decorative forms: braids of hair, details from Beijing opera costuming, lattice-work, sequined patterns. Although founded in adornment, these elements are repeated until they too appear organic, even cancerous...and they at once highlight and suffocate the underlying ink stained foundation. Each piece is tense with the threat of disunity and incoherence as nature and artifice spring from and merge into one another, and as different elements multiply and expand like poisonous growths.

My paintings are utter hybrids; man-sized fields punctuated by moments of absurdity, poetry, mutation, growth and decay that I find both suffocating and fabulous. They glory in the sensuous and the rambling, but intersperse the chaos with moments of neurotic control. They explore the potentialities of growth, but also of overabundance. I think of my work as baroque abstract: a celebration of the abundance of connections and clashes that can be found in the disparate mess of matter in the world.

Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann


Bridging traditional Asian techniques with a keen investigation of her American environment, Taiwanese-American Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann creates ink and paper works that spill out into the viewing space. First staining her pieces with color, Mann nourishes the landscape of each painting, "coaxing from this organic foundation the development of diverse, decorative forms." Soft explosions of color permeate her paper creations, interspersed with sumi ink and acrylic paint. Her work embodies the poetry of amalgamation, simultaneously "suffocating and fabulous."

Mann was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but grew up moving around the United States, Asia and the Middle East as the child of a US Foreign Service Officer. She received her dual BA from Brown University and MFA degree in painting from the Hoffberger School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art. Half-Asian American and a life-long expatriate, she combines elements from natural history, graphic design and Chinese ink painting into abstract pieces exploring themes of excess and growth.

She has participated as an artist in residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Blue Sky Dayton, Vermont Studio Center, Salzburg Kunstlerhauss, Triangle Workshop and Anderson Ranch Art Center residencies. Mann is currently an instructor at American University and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

The artist has held solo exhibitions at the Pressiton Gallery, Miami, FL, Guandu National Park, Taipei, Taiwan, and Hong Zhuan Gallery, Yilan, Taiwan, and was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant in 2006. She has won numerous fellowships and grants including a fellowship at the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC in 2010, and the AIR Gallery fellowship in New York in 2011.

She has shown extensively in the Washington-Baltimore area, New York, New England and internationally in Zurich, London, Taiwan and Cameroon. Her work has been reviewed in many publications including the Washington Post, The Baltimore City Paper and the Taipei Times.