Collect – Art Journal
Issue 2 | Dec 2017


Collect – Art Journal | December 2017

Terminology –
“Ink” or “Shui-mo”?

“We normally use the English term ‘ink’ for the traditional medium, but is it able to convey the essence of ‘Shui-mo’? For example, from Japanese ‘Mono-ha’ (School of Things) and Korean ‘Dansaekhwa’ (Monochrome painting) to Chinese ‘Kung fu’, the pronunciations of these terms are culturally tie to their originating places, yet they do not affect their status in the global context.

Terminology is the realisation of the confidence cultivated in a culture as well as the subjectivity of its language. To establish such distinctive position, ink must face the challenges of this contemporary world in terms of its spirituality, core value and language system. At the same time, ink needs to be understood, interpreted and promoted in a broader context. On the other hand, one must be culturally conscious in order to understand the depth of spirituality and subjectivity of the language encompassed in ink art. To be at the frontier is to delve into the profundity of history.”

Common Ground for Diversity

The diversity of ink art comes from different visions, identities and regions, and there even appears contradictions in some perspectives. At the core of this problem is a more complex situation that involves subjects such as ideology and geo-cultural transformation. Under different circumstances, we will have different points of view, which lead us to different conclusions and judgements – this is also the beauty of ink.

Now if you explore this subject as “Shui-Mo” instead of “ink”, do you see a completely new outlook?

Path to Modernisation – China, Japan and Korea

For those countries and regions of which the cultures were built upon Confucianism, many artists and intellectuals have done many experimentations on modernising ink.

Xu Beihong, Six Galloping Horses, Ink on paper
( Photo Source : )

In China, Xu Beihung, Jiang Zhaohe and Zhou Sicong’s revolutionised works were inspired by Western Realism; Lin Fengmian, Zao Wouki, Chu Tehchun, Wu Guanzhong incorporated Western Cubism and Fauvism into ink art; also, in the 80s, there were “New Literati Movement”, “Experimental Ink” etc. that challenged the tradition of ink art.

Liu Kuosung, Blue Moon Landscape, Ink, colour, and collage on paper
( Photo Source : )

For overseas Chinese artists, Zhang Daqian’s “splash ink” in his late period showed the tendency toward abstraction Liu Guosung from Taiwan abandoned traditional technique in ink in his Space Series and adopted Western avant-garde approach with multimedia. Hsiao Chin and Li Yuanchia created abstract works that are rooted in Eastern spirituality; in 1957, they founded Tong Feng Art Group in Taiwan, and in 1961, they initiated the influential Punto International Movement in Milan.

Yuichi Inoue, Buddha, Ink on paper
( Photo Source : )

In Japan, Jiro Yoshihara and Kazuo Shiraga of “Gutai” integrated abstraction and Taoism with gestural brushstrokes; Yuichi Inoue pioneered “bokusho (abstract calligraphy)” and “Single Character Painting” in Japan and was widely recognised internationally; Lee Ufan’s minimalist approach “yohaku (the art of emptiness)” was seminal and influential.

Lee Ufan, Correspondence, Ink on canvas
( Photo Source : )

In Korea, ‘Dansaekhwa (Monochrome painting)” emerged in the 70s still stands as one of the representatives of post-war avant-garde

If we look at East Asia and compare the artistic development in China, Japan and Korea, we will discover that, although each of them has their own tradition (all ink related), during the process of modernisation, they have chosen different paths to reform their arts; and Japan has been the most avant-garde with the most impressive modernist movements while successfully retaining their distinctive cultural characteristics. However in China, as the place of origin of ink art, its artistic development seems to be constantly oscillating between two extremes; restoration or revolution, tradition or westernisation, resulting in multi-directional development of the art form.”

( Courtesy of Ink Asia 2016 )

Water and Ink
(Shui and Mo) –
The Eastern Root and
its Dilemma

“For thousands of years, ink is not just a medium in East Asian art circle, it is the symbol of culture, a vessel that carries its cultural heritage and traditions, encompassing Oriental philosophies, values, aesthetics etc. As the East undergoes modernisation, as the symbol of Oriental art, ink art spearheaded this historic transformation and, in fact, still continues to do so.

Although ink is the most unique medium for Chinese and East Asian artists in expressing cultural and artistic concept, it is set in a strong contradiction: it can express the Oriental’s assurance of aesthetics and it is yet irreplaceable; however, it is also facing the matter of expressing itself to the world.”

Ink Asia Hong Kong –
From Local to International

Since its establishment in 2015, Ink Asia, harnessing the geographical advantage of Hong Kong, has adhered to its mission of promoting mutual understanding of ink in Asia, as well as the cultural exchanges between the East and the West. The orientation of Ink Asia is to create a unique and international platform for the ink art which is currently undergoing the transition of modernity: We can see very “ink” and “non-ink” works at the same time, which are both believed to be influenced by traditional ink and merely embark on different artistic paths today.

Hong Kong is a multi-cultural metropolitan that respects individual expressions, where the value of “Shui-Mo” and the visions of the artists are established through their arts.