“Ink Remix”: Contemporary ink art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong – in pictures

Contemporary ink art from Greater China takes centre stage in a major touring exhibition in Australia.

The Canberra Museum and Gallery is holding an unprecedented show of contemporary ink art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, displaying the vast diversity of reinterpretation of the traditional medium today.

Yao Jui-chung, 'Yao's Journey to Australia', 2015, biro, oil pen with gold leaf on Indian handmade paper, 200 x 546 x 6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Keng Gallery.

Yao Jui-chung, ‘Yao’s Journey to Australia’, 2015, biro, oil pen with gold leaf on Indian handmade paper, 200 x 546 x 6 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Keng Gallery.

“INK REMIX: Contemporary art from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong” kicked off the first leg of its tour on 3 July 2015 at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, Australia, and will run until 18 October. The exhibition then moves to Bendigo Art Gallery, University of NSW Galleries Sydney and the Museum of Brisbane.

Curated by Sophie McIntyre, the show brings together more than 35 contemporary ink artworks by 14 established and emerging artists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, spanning painting, sculpture, photography, animation, video and installation.

Qiu Zhijie, 'The Secret of Mosaics Has been Forgotten' (from "Birds eye" series), 2013, ink and colour on paper, 180 x 97 cm. Collection of Mr and Mrs Wadsworth’s ‘the humble cabin on the pine mountain studio’. Image courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery.

Qiu Zhijie, ‘The Secret of Mosaics Has been Forgotten’ (from “Birds Eye” series), 2013, ink and colour on paper, 180 x 97 cm. Collection of Mr and Mrs Wadsworth’s ‘the humble cabin on the pine mountain studio’. Image courtesy Hanart TZ Gallery.

This also marks the first time that a major exhibition of its kind has been organised in Australia around the theme of contemporary ink art, which has emerged in recent years as one of the most important artistic trends driving auction house sales in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong and is attracting significant international attention. East Asia has a long tradition of ink painting, but it is often regarded as a “quintessentially Chinese medium”, as writes McIntyre. Its history reaches back millennia – and is still being reimagined by contemporary artists today.

Ni Youyu, 'Galaxy', 2012-2015, 80 (approx.) painted coins, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Arario Gallery.

Ni Youyu, ‘Galaxy’, 2012-2015, 80 (approx.) painted coins, dimensions variable. Image courtesy the artist and Arario Gallery.

“INK REMIX” aims to demonstrate how the medium has evolved through time and is being incorporated and transformed in contemporary practice, as expressed on the exhibition website:

This exhibition offers new ways of thinking about ink as a multifaceted and dynamic form of visual expression that is being embraced and reinterpreted by increasing numbers of contemporary artists in the region. These artists are searching for a new language that is simultaneously local and global and connects the past with the present and future. The exhibition highlights these artists’ unique and shared, individual, cultural and regional perspectives.

Peng Wei, 'Night of July 7th', 2009, bust with rice paper, 65.5 x 33 x 19 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Keng Gallery.

Peng Wei, ‘Night of July 7th’, 2009, bust with rice paper, 65.5 x 33 x 19 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Tina Keng Gallery.

Feng Mengbo, 'Not Too Late', 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy the artist.

Feng Mengbo, ‘Not Too Late’, 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy the artist.

An evolving tradition

Ink art today is not restricted by subject, style or media. It has become a fertile ground for experimentation and innovation. The works on show have all been created within the last decade, with some produced especially for the exhibition.

He Xiangyu, "Cola Project – Antique" series 'Circular Fan II', 2009-2010, ink and Coca-Cola on silk, 28 x 30 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lucien Y. Tso, ONCE Projects.

He Xiangyu, ‘Circular Fan II’, (from “Cola Project – Antique” series), 2009-2010, ink and Coca-Cola on silk, 28 x 30 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Lucien Y. Tso, ONCE Projects.

The artists in “INK REMIX” include:

Wilson Shieh, 'Fatal Dignity', 1997, Chinese ink and colour on silk, 35.5 x 40 cm. Collection of Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

Wilson Shieh, ‘Fatal Dignity’, 1997, Chinese ink and colour on silk, 35.5 x 40 cm. Collection of Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

Charwei Tsai, 'Tofu Mantra', 2005, single channel video. Collection of Mori Art Museum. Image courtesy the artist.

Charwei Tsai, ‘Tofu Mantra’, 2005, single channel video. Collection of Mori Art Museum. Image courtesy the artist.

Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai’s videos, photographs and performance-based works engage with Buddhist philosophy, inspired especially by the Heart Sutra and the concept of impermanence. Central to her practice is the act of writing and the meditative and performative aspects of calligraphy, as evident in her ongoing “Mantra” series (since 2005). Tsai writes excerpts from the Heart Sutra in brush and ink (bi mo) onto organic materials like tofu, meat, mushrooms, lotus leaves and flowers.

Charwei Tsai, 'Incense Mantra', 2013, single channel video. In collaboration with Tsering Tashi Gyalthang. Image courtesy the artist.

Charwei Tsai, ‘Incense Mantra’, 2013, single channel video. In collaboration with Tsering Tashi Gyalthang. Image courtesy the artist.

In the exhibition, the Tofu Mantra (2005) and Incense Mantra (2013) time-lapse videos capture the decay and degeneration of the organic, which in turn obliterates the calligraphy. The works function as metaphors for the ephemeral nature of existence. Incense Mantra was created in Hong Kong – an important producer of the incense sourced from locally grown sandalwood – and bears historical, cultural and religious significance.

Chen Shaoxiong, 'Ink History', 2008-2010, single channel video animation. Image courtesy the artist and Pékin Fine Arts.

Chen Shaoxiong, ‘Ink History’, 2008-2010, single channel video animation. Image courtesy the artist and Pékin Fine Arts.

Through a practice incorporating photography, video, animation, painting and drawing, Beijing-based artist Chen Shaoxiong has since 2005 created a series of five ink animated videos exploring local and global issues, as well as aspects of his daily life. Inspired by his grandmother’s experiences, Ink History (2008-2010) chronicles the history of China from the fall of the Qing Dynasty in the early 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century.

Chen Shaoxiong, 'Ink Media', 2013, single channel video animation. Image courtesy the artist and Pékin Fine Arts.

Chen Shaoxiong, ‘Ink Media’, 2013, single channel video animation. Image courtesy the artist and Pékin Fine Arts.

In Ink Media (2013), Chen deconstructs a collection of images of political protests and public demonstrations around the world found on the Internet, creating an ink montage that explores how our experience and understanding of the world is shaped by mass media and its construction of different narratives of ‘convenience’.

Hung Keung + imhk lab, 'Dao Gives Birth to One – version III' (video still), 2009, 3 channel video. Image courtesy the artist (www.hungkeung.hk).

Hung Keung + imhk lab, ‘Dao Gives Birth to One – version III’ (video still), 2009, 3 channel video. Image courtesy the artist (www.hungkeung.hk).

Hong Kong new media artist Hung Keung creates interactive videos and installations that examine the relationship between time and space, and aspects of Chinese tradition. Through his 2005-founded innov + media lab (imhk), which explores new directions in new media art and design, he has developed the interactive software used in his works.

hung Keung + imhk lab, 'Dao Gives Birth to One – version III', 2009, 3 channel video. image courtesy the artist (www.hungkeung.hk).

Hung Keung + imhk lab, ‘Dao Gives Birth to One – version III’, 2009, 3 channel video. Image courtesy the artist (www.hungkeung.hk).

The multi-screen video work Dao Gives Birth to One has been presented in various versions and configurations. Combining digital media technologies, aspects of classical Chinese philosophy, language and calligraphy, Hung took inspiration from the ancient philosophical text Dao De Jing (道德經) and particularly the idea of unity in relation to the Chinese word ‘one’ (yi or —) expressed in a passage of the text. His interactive video work explores the ideas of unity and multiplicity, in a space where, as McIntyre writes, “Chinese characters drift, fragment and collide with human and animal forms to form a dialogue and eventually become ‘one’.”

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Chinese artists, Hong Kong artists, Taiwanese artists, contemporary ink art, museum shows, touring exhibitions, picture feasts, events in Australia

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