Collect – Art Journal
Issue 1 | June 2017


Collect – Art Journal | June 2017

Gu Wenda, Mythos of Lost Dynasties K series #1-10, Ink on paper (Courtesy of Hanart TZ Gallery)

Different from alphabetic languages, each Chinese character carries both semantic and graphic elements. Because of its aesthetic value, it not only represents long history of Chinese culture but also the personality of the writer. Breaking away from the traditional practice of imitating writings by the old masters, contemporary artists adopt individual approach to interpret their state of mind and the modern society through deconstruction and reconstruction of the language, using it as a visual medium rather than a form of communication.

Li Huayi, Landscape in the Mist, Ink and colour on paper, framed (Courtesy of Chelesa Fine Art)

New Landscape
Landscape has long been emblematic of Chinese cultural values as the depiction of mountains and rivers is not about realistically representing nature but communicating the artist’s state of mind. As modernity continuously influences and alters the nature, contemporary ink artists revive the traditional theme of landscape with expressive individual vision relevant to the modern society while maintaining the poeticism and spirituality.

Zhang Yu, Fingerprints 2005.6-3, Vegetable pigments on paper (Courtesy of Da Xiang Art Space)

Abstract ink art breaks out of the traditional relationship between ink and brush, and even challenges the prominent role of the brush by adopting innovative techniques such as splashing, pouring, spraying, rinsing as well as collage. Besides continuing to study the use of lines, contemporary artists also focus on the gesture, process and materials in their own expressive language, resulting in a new aesthetics of speed, power and tension, which recalls the dynamic quality of calligraphy. While the form was inspired by post-war Western abstract expressionism, the cursive brushstrokes and techniques such as blank-leaving in traditional Chinese ink art also influenced many artists in the West; for example, American artists Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell. Abstract ink art in the East is an expression unique to Oriental cultures where the artistic depiction of spirit and Oriental philosophy still remain the core of the practice.

Zheng Lu, Water in Dripping – Clouds, Stainless Steel (Courtesy of MGM Cotai Art Collection)

Sculpture, Multimedia and Installation
he development of ink art has brought the art form beyond ink, brush and paper, leaving its definition up for interpretation. Although the boundaries have been blurred, these artworks share the ink spirit which for more than a thousand years informs the cultural heritage of China. By referencing to traditional symbolism, metaphysical and philosophical subject matters, pictorial concept, history and culture, contemporary ink artists recreate the ink aesthetics with modern consciousness and materials such as sculpture, digital media, photography, large scale installation as well as performances. Infusing traditional and contemporary techniques and resources, these artists reveal the identity of China in the modern world