CONTEMPORARY ART SHENZHEN BIENNALE CHINA
In the contemporary Chinese art market, overwhelming attention has been paid to oil painters and conceptual artists whose works have fetched astronomical prices in auctions worldwide. The traditional art of Chinese ink painting, however, has received far less attention. This state of affairs may finally be changing.
Premièring in 1998, the International Ink Art Biennale of Shenzhen is an international cultural exchange project that focusses on the traditional art of ink painting. Organised with the support of the Ministry of Culture and hosted by the Shenzhen municipal government, the 7th International Ink Painting Biennale of Shenzhen, held in early 2011, featured the works of over 140 artists from over 20 countries around the world.
To principal curators Dong Xiaoming and Yan Shanchun, the promotion of ink art has a unique meaning in the Chinese context. Ink art is not just a classical tradition but a timeless art form that is very much alive and replete with creative possibilities. It is also something that China is in a privileged position to bring to the international art world.
Our goal is to explore ink art’s heritage as well as its innovations, and to promote a distinctive character, national identity and new vitality to open to the world in order to encourage domestic and international artists and art theorists to unite around this subject of common interest.
– Preface to the event’s catalogue, excerpted by The Wall Street Journal
Five exhibitions, three venues
More than three hundred works were displayed in five exhibitions at three different venues, namely the Guan Shanyue Art Museum, Shenzhen Fine Art Institute and OCT Art and Design Gallery. Here are descriptions of three of these exhibitions excerpted from Shenzhen Daily, a local English-language newspaper:
Guan Shanyue Art Museum: “A New World of Brushwork”, “New Media with Traditional Thought”
Two exhibitions at the Guan Shanyue Art Museum feature experimental works of more than forty artists with opposite approaches. In “A New World of Brushwork” exhibition, artists focus on using traditional materials and techniques to depict today’s urban landscapes and social life. In the “New Media With Traditional Thought” exhibition, artists have employed non-traditional media, such as oils, prints, sculptures, installations, photography, and digital art, to reveal how the elements of traditional ink art can merge with today’s new media art.
OCT Art and Design Gallery: “Com(ic)media on Line”
The special subject exhibition at the OCT Art & Design Gallery re-interprets the lines of comics and Chinese painting to form a broader aesthetic of lines across art media. “Com(ic)media on Line” takes its name from the concept of the line, the expression of lines, the interest in lines, and the representation of a world enclosed by lines or the différance in the linear zone.
This exhibition brings together Eastern and Western techniques to investigate the similarities of this mass-oriented art form, examining the communication and transmission of simple brush and line drawings, while demonstrating the humor of these fascinating visualisations which metaphorically re-create the real world and the various vicissitudes of human life.
The exhibition includes works in ink on paper and silk, woodblock prints, illustrations, cartoons, animation, video, sculpture and graffiti. Visitors will have a chance to see drawings by late Chinese master painters such as Feng Zikai, Guan Liang, Zhang Daqian, Hua Junwu, and He Youzhi.
Another exhibition, “Legacy and Creations – Ink Art vs Ink Art”, was organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and showcased works by more than thirty artists from the city. The works span five decades, beginning with masters of the 1960s and 1970s such as Lu Shoukun, who initiated the New Ink Painting movement. Hong Kong has exerted a particularly strong influence on the mainland in modern Chinese ink painting, given the region’s exposure to foreign art influences and the amalgamation of Chinese and Western aesthetics.
The Hong Kong Design Centre has just hosted an Ink and Design Exhibition, with four designers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan acting as co-curators, providing yet another platform for regional art dialogue.
18 international ink artists included
Aside from Chinese artists from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Biennale also featured the works of eighteen foreign artists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, and Japan. Adam Bailey, a 26-year-old animation artist from Britain who recently graduated from the University for the Creative Arts at Farnham and is now working at his London studio, exhibited his work Cheese, a 2”34’ animation.
Speaking to Shenzhen Daily he said, “My work is about dreams and it was inspired by my experience of drawing with ink when I was young. … I’m quite excited to see so many different styles of ink paintings at this year’s biennial. This has given me a lot of inspiration for my future work.”
Another British artist, Peter Boyd Maclean, is a television director who has produced music videos documentary, comedy and animation series.
Profiles of both artists are available at the British Council website.
How does the art market respond to ink?
There is certainly a growing interest among Chinese collectors for works by 20th-century masters of ink painting. In May of , Aachensee Lake (1968) by Zhang Daqian sold for an astonishing $14.8 million at China Guardian Auctions in Beijing. The figure rivaled records achieved by such contemporary art stars as Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun and demonstrated the strength of the market for modernist ink paintings in mainland China. Just weeks later, Christie’s Hong Kong made more than $27 million in a single afternoon sale of modern Chinese paintings, with works by Fu Baoshi and Xu Beihong attracting bids topping $1 million.
The question, then, is “whether this enthusiasm will spread to contemporary practitioners of ink painting.” According to Pollack, the record at 2010 for contemporary ink art was $976,569 for Xu Bing‘s The Living Word (2001), which “is strong but pales in comparison to prices for the top-selling Chinese oil painters.”
For more on the historical development of the art of Chinese ink painting, visit the China Online Museum. The website contains individual painting galleries featuring the works of the most influential Chinese ink masters dating back to the year 265.
- How is Chinese ink painting explored in contemporary art? RedBox Review in discussion with Liang Quan – October 2010 – explains how ink painting is used in contemporary art
- Wilson Shieh revitalises ancient Chinese painting techniques – video – September 2010 – “Before I learned the fine-brush technique, I considered this style as just a kind of antique craftsmanship.”
- Gao Minglu’s maximalist exhibition blurs boundaries between traditional and contemporary Chinese art – June 2010 – Contrasts Gallery Shanghai was the host of the recent exhibition “Mind Space: Maximalism in Contrasts”
- Wu Guanzhong retrospective Singapore Art Museum – New York Times review – May 2009 – a must-read review of this master’s work
- Chinese ink artist Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian shows 80 works in Spain – Guardian, Int Literary Quarterly – January 2009 – this exhibition references three trends we are noticing in the art world now