Contemporary Chinese Ink Art

Chinese ink art has a time-honored tradition, a tradition that has, since the day it was born, been going through relentless changes, mainly driven by its intrinsic movements before the 20th century, as there was neither desire nor channel for Chinese culture to interact with those of other countries against the backdrop of China’s enclosed cultural environment. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed the most dramatic changes in the history of China, which led to, among other effects, rupturing and fragmentation of Chinese cultural traditions, with the increasing influence of the west on China. Ink art, as one of the symbols of Chinese cultural traditions, has since then embarked on a path of so-called "transformation" , with modernization as the purpose and learning from the west the approach. This transformation was accompanied by disputes until the 1980s, a period that saw the prominence of a contemporary sense of questioning in the creation of Chinese ink art. The creators, while stressing "micro-times" and "micro-trends" in the context of "macro-times" and" macro-trends", began to show diversities and personalities. What rem ained the same about the ink artists then were the principles of "I’m expressing my own inner world" and "harmony but not conformity", although some of them tended to envy the unrestrainedness of western expressionist art, and some others preferred to go back to the traditional "brush and ink play" of ancient Chinese literati painting. It is undoubtedly true that Chinese ink painting of the early 21st century will be nothing but a flash in the context of its tremendously long history. It is now showing more enhanced diversities and personalities with the involvement of young ink artists. The tradition of Chinese ink art has been more inclusive to the efforts of the past generations of ink artists, and it is based on this inclusiveness that Chinese ink art is starting to be experimental and avant-garde. For young artists, ink is either the material they feel comfortable with, or an apposite medium they use to express their own opinions, or a route of time travel for them to connect with ancient artists. That’s why they have been so captivated by the creations and experiments of ink art, which count as the most direct and easiest modes to express themselves as well as their attitudes toward the current era. It is our pleasure to bring the creations of such a group of young artists to London, the culturally diverse metropolis where we would like to unveil contemporary Chinese ink art. Belonging to the new generation of contemporary Chinese ink artists, the several young artists featured in this exhibition, who are known for their practice of art out of unconstrained will, have all chosen ink art as if by prior agreement. For them, ink art is where their vitality lies, and their mission of artistic creation is to tell the story of "themselves" or to reveal the spirit of their generation in the contemporary cultural context, instead of continuing the tradition of ink art.  

1977 Bornin Hunan province
2002 Graduatedfrom Traditional Chinese Painting Department of Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts with a bachelor´s degree
Currently works and lives in Xiamen and Beijing

Redefining the Tradition –Chen Jun Solo Exhibition, Mingtai Space, Beijing
City in Yesterday, 798 TimesSpace Haixi Division, Xiamen

In his “Urban Landscape” series, Chen Jun reconstructed the classic schema of traditional Chinese landscape painting by replacing the lines and the concept of “cun”or “texture wrinkles” in traditional Chinese painting with brightly-coloredspots mixed with brand logos. Having covered the natural landscape that has existed maybe for centuries, these colorful dots, along with the logos of BMW,Coca Cola, etc.,

representative of the current commodity society, reveal acontemporary landscape just as the spectacular night view of a bustlingmetropolis, which may be where Chen’s inspiration for this series lies.

And it is probable that his acute sense of the contemporary consumption culture can be attributed to his working experience as a commercial designer before he becamea professional artist.

It is evident that, through the juxtaposition of modern creation and its archetype of ancient classics, the rigid brushwork and magnificent atmosphere of Northern-Song landscape painting(as shown in the renowned Northern Song painter Li Tang’s “Whispering Pines inthe Mountains” which is the archetype for Chen’s “Classics·Contemporary No. 9”), as well as the literati characters such as serenity and tranquility in Yuan-dynasty painting (as conveyed in the artworks by the famous Yuan-dynasty literatipainter Ni Zan, which were adopted as

Hang Chunhui

1976 Born in Dangtu, Anhui province
2005 MFA, Central Academy of Fine Arts
2011 PhD, Chinese National Academy of Arts

Hang Chunhui’s cross-media educational background (from sculpture to design, and then to ink art) has not only helped him to broaden his thinking and horizon of artistic creation, but also rendered support for his various artistic experiments in terms of both techniques and vocabulary.

As an artist known for his spirit of questioning and exploring, Hang has lately been focusing on two issues, one of which is the relationship between imagery and materiality of painting, while the other discussing the construction of visual logic and its effect on the viewing experience.

In Hang’s series “Manual for Identifying Butterflies”, his paintings, which were made into horizontal or vertical scrolls, were later mounted in fames to be displayed as image. What serve as anintegral part of the entire image are the butterfly specimen, together with the inscribed explanatory texts adopted from the encyclopedia about each variety of butterflies.

Hao Shiming

1977 Born in Heze,Shangdong Province, China
2000 Graduated from the Department of Traditional Chinese Painting, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts with a bachelor's degree
2014 Graduated from the Capital Normal University with a master’s degree
Now lives and works in Beijing and Wuhan
In his series of “Landscape” with the piece “Distant Mountains” as the representative, Hao also reconstructed the landscape based on reference to classic landscape paintings with the “double-line” technique, namely, outlining the subject with double ink lines first and then filling in colors, a technique widely-used in fine-brushwork birds & flowers painting as well as copying calligraphy.

This orientation of abstraction as well as Hao’s perception of ancient Chinese time and space is unveiled in his series themed on Chinese calligraphy. In his eyes, the trajectory of the brush inspace before it rests on paper, rather than the final strokes it creates on paper, is worthy of study. Thanks to his “double-line” technique, a morethree-dimensional structure composed of strips has replaced the originalstrokes consisting of simple lines, giving a clearer picture of relations suchas preceding & following, or intertwining, among strokes.

Ma Lingli

1989 Born in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
2012 BFA in Chinese Painting Department, SichuanFine Arts Institute
This is the case in her work “Spy No.1” displayed at this exhibition. Composed of a foreground with two curio stones on the desk, as a reflection on the refined literati hobby of appreciating antiques and curios, and a background showing a vague view of part of an erotic painting along with projected shadows of the two stones, revealing the secret innermost desires of human beings, the artwork unveils the complicated yet subtle relationship between image and semantics, presenting the outward show and the inward essence of human desire in a typically-oriental implicit way.

Exploration of the relationships between light and shadow, virtuality and reality, time and space has always been part of Ma Lingli’s artistic creation.

In her earlier artworks, Ma created projected shadows on a wall by lighting up a painting on silk with flashlights. The shadows, though different from the image on the painting due to the varied light permeability of pigments, still bear relevance to what is behind the surface.

Peng Jian

1982 Born in Yueyang, Hunan Province
2013 MFA,Graduated from China Academy of Art, Hangzhou

The brightly-colored paintings featuringpop art by Peng Jian are also based on the artist’s unique understanding of and reference to traditional Chinese culture. In his piece “Empty Room”, the most representative one of his earlier series, the books on the desk, and the Four Treasures of the Study along with relevant curios displayed in the room imply the connection of this piece with traditional culture, although both the buildings outside the window and the decoration of the room indicate that this is a study in modern times. The semi-transparent screen window that separates the tranquil study which symbolizes the artist’s longing for classic ancient life from the noisy urban streets seems to be of metaphor.

This orientation of abstraction as well as Hao’s perception of ancient Chinese time and space is unveiled in his series themed on Chinese calligraphy. In his eyes, the trajectory of the brush in space before it rests on paper, rather than the final strokes it creates on paper, is worthy of study. Thanks to his “double-line” technique, a morethree-dimensional structure composed of strips has replaced the originalstrokes consisting of simple lines, giving a clearer picture of relations suchas preceding & following, or intertwining, among strokes.

Although calligraphyis no longer a way of daily writing in the present day, just as the status of landscape painting without the context of ancient life in Chen Jun’s artworks.

Hao has revived the contemporary relevance of calligraphy as an art form and vocabulary by imagery processing of Chinese characters and reproducing the process of writing.

Xu Hualing

1975  Born in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province
2000  BFA in Chinese painting Department, Central Academy of Fine Arts
2003  MFA in Chinese painting Department, Central Academy of Fine Arts
Currently teaches at Chinese Painting Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts

Xu has made new attempts in his recentpiece “Featherlight No.2”, illustrating in a large-sized painting the back of anadolescent girl, which looks as standing seen from a distance but floating as indicated by the posture of her feet when watched closely. The artist has successfully conveyed complicated meanings through a simple visual construction based on the viewers’ different perceptions of partial sections and the whole image.

In her series of “Painting of silk”,the delicate lace and the embroidery needle are all implying the presence of a female subject though there are no concrete figures in the image. The piece“Paintingof silk 8”, the purest one of this series, is an apposite example of creating astrong presence of a female by illustrating nothing but lace-like patterns in the image.

徐華翎以極為私密的女性化視角呈現女性在男性視線以外的自在狀態,並通過透明水性顏料的層層暈染取代人體輪廓線,呈現出既有別于中國傳統又不同於西方繪畫體系的獨特視覺經驗。《香2015 No.1》是此類作品的典型。

Xu has unveiled the state of females at ease beyond the sight of males in an intimate female perspective by replacing human silhouettes with multi-layered renderingin transparent water-based pigments, contributing to adistinctive visual experience different from either traditional Chinese or western paintings. Her piece “Aroma 2015 No.1” is a representative example of such techniques.

Xu Hualing has gone to the other extreme of the exploration of “lines”—making a breakthrough of ink art by getting rid of outlines. With adolescent girls and young women as her favorite subjects.

China Modern Contemporary Art Document
Credits: Story

Curators: Betty Lutyens-Humfrey Chen Lin
Academic Director: Zhao Li
Artists: Chen Jun Hang Chunhui Hao Shiming Ma Lingli Peng Jian Xu Hualing
Online Editor:Cai Congqian

Panel talk:7th Sep 2016 5pm.
Opening: 7th Sep 2016 6:30pm.
Duration: 7th – 13th Sep, 2016
Venue: Royal College of Art Gallery
Organiser: Z ART
Co-organisers: East & West Fine Art Consulting, London
Ningbo Qianzimu investment management partnership
Academic Support: Chinese Modern & Contemporary Art Document Research Center Art Nova 100

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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