Chi­nese artists show ex­per­i­ments with ink, wa­ter and pa­per

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | CULTURE - By LIN QI

Re­versed Per­va­sion is an on­go­ing ex­hi­bi­tion that shows artists’ di­verse, ex­per­i­men­tal ex­plo­rations of ink, wa­ter and pa­per — three tra­di­tional medi­ums of Chi­nese paint­ing.

The show at Bei­jing’s Fine Arts Equiv­a­lence gallery com­mu­ni­cates how painters of to­day have car­ried on with Asian wis­dom and aes­thetic habits, ac­cord­ing to cu­ra­tor He Ji. He says it also re­in­forces that mod­ern changes in ink art can re­shape Chi­nese art and in­flu­ence the cul­tural di­a­logue be­tween the East and the West.

De­pend­ing less on con­ven­tional ap­proaches in color and com­po­si­tion, the fea­tured Chi­nese painters have re­sponded to hu­man emo­tions in an ever-chang­ing dig­i­tal world.

Bei­jinger Zhang Xin­jian, for one, has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with mod­ern color schemes on pa­per.

The 71-year-old was in­spired by the ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ist move­ment in Amer­i­can paint­ing when pro­duc­ing his work Spring Snow. He mainly uses black, gray and blue to show the po­etic scenery of melt­ing snow in early spring.

“Re­spect­ing tra­di­tions doesn’t mean that we should not in­no­vate on a ground­break­ing ba­sis,” Zhang says. “Many of us (ink painters) have yet to de­velop in­di­vid­ual styles. We’re still on the way.”

Up-and-com­ing cal­lig­ra­pher Xia Pencheng, who spe­cial­izes in caoshu (cur­sive script), ven­tures into ink paint­ing by in­cor­po­rat­ing a rhyth­mic pace of writ­ing he has prac­ticed with cal­lig­ra­phy since child­hood. He is a stu­dent of well­known­cal­lig­ra­pherShenPeng.

Xia says most an­cient artists were re­quired to do many things — paint, prac­tice cal­lig­ra­phy, com­pose verses and carve seals— but to­day’s artists mostly con­fine them­selves to a par­tic­u­lar art form.

Another par­tic­i­pat­ing artist, Song Jun­sheng, who en­tered the art cir­cles as a cal­lig­ra­pher, has ex­plored his “in­cense” ap­proach since the late 1980s. He lights in­cense sticks to burn Chi­nese char­ac­ters and seal marks while paint­ing on pa­per. Song also uses burned scrolls and paint­ings to form in­stal­la­tions, ex­tend­ing tra­di­tional art to a three-di­men­sional realm with more pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Song says that peo­ple tra­di­tion­ally com­mu­ni­cate with heaven by burn­ing in­cense sticks. Through this cer­e­mo­nial process of cre­at­ing, he in­vites his au­di­ence into a space where one for­gets his phys­i­cal be­ing and the ma­te­rial world, and may be in­clined to achieve men­tal peace.

He Ji, the cu­ra­tor, says the do­mes­tic mar­ket for Chi­nese art had wit­nessed a lot of hype around 2004, with the bub­ble fi­nally burst­ing in 2009. Many works in the past three decades were done by artists who used Chi­nese brushes and pa­per but painted to cater to West­ern tastes. That led to a fall in prices of such art­works in the coun­try.

“Artists re­al­ize that to re­tain an Asian tem­per­a­ment, they need to make kalei­do­scopic at­tempts. In this re­spect, Ja­panese mono ha artists have set a good ex­am­ple,” he says.

Mono ha, which means “school of things” in Ja­panese, was started by a group of artistswhoe­merged in that coun­try in the late 1960s with cul­tur­ally unique works.

He says that, to es­tab­lish a strong­hold on the in­ter­na­tional art scene to­day, Chi­nese ink art needs both young artists and in­no­va­tive ideas.


The showRe­v­ersed Per­va­sion dis­plays how Chi­nese ink painters carry on the an­cient genre in new ways.

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