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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
The artists in “INK REMIX” include:
- Chen Shaoxiong (b. 1962, Shantou, China)
- Feng Mengbo (b. 1966, Beijing, China)
- He Xiangyu (b. 1986, Kuandian, China)
- Hung Keung (b. 1970, Kunming, China)
- Cindy Ng Sio Ieng (b. 1966, Macau)
- Ni Youyu (b. 1984, Ganzhou, China)
- Pan Hsin-hua (b. 1966, Taitung, Taiwan)
- Peng Hung-chih (b. 1969, Taipei, Taiwan)
- Peng Wei (b. 1974, Chengdu, China)
- Qiu Zhijie (b. 1969, Zhangzhou, China)
- Wilson Shieh (b. 1970, Hong Kong)
- Charwei Tsai (b. 1980, Taipei, Taiwan)
- Yang Yongliang (b. 1980, Shanghai, China)
- Yao Jui-chung (b. 1969, Taipei, Taiwan)
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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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- Chinese artist Sun Xun explores facets of history – interview – November 2014 – one of the youngest and most prolific video artists in China today, talks about his works, his long standing fascination with the rift between official and personal stories of the Cultural Revolution
- From revolution to evolution: Yang Jiechang’s contemporary Chinese ink art – Artshare video interview – May 2014 – Yang Jiechang talks about being a child of the Cultural Revolution to becoming “probably the most unpredictable and chaotic artist in his generation”
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