Sun, May 18, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Paper provides basis for an artist's work

A new exhibition focuses on the role of paper and its particular qualities for the professional painter



Despite being an essential part of painting, the importance of paper has often been ignored in the appreciation of paintings. The painful search by painters for the right kind of paper to work on is rarely revealed.

Chang Da-chian (張大千) and Chiang Chao-shen (江兆申) are two renowned ink painters who understood the importance of paper and even came up with their own recipes and had paper exclusively made for them in Japan.

For nearly 20 years, Ho Chi-liang (侯吉諒) had searched for the appropriate paper in places as far apart as Taipei, Puli, Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy and Egypt, until he met Wang Guo-tsai (王國財), a researcher at the Taiwan Forestry Research Institute (農林會林業試驗所).

Wang developed an improved kind of paper called Midnight Blue paper. The newspaper report on it and the blue of the paper caught Ho's attention.

With the hope of finally finding the paper he wanted, Ho contacted Wang and soon collaborated in a paper/painting exchange.

The result of their collaboration since last year is now on show in, "Hand-made Paper and Chinese Painting" (畫品與紙品), an exhibition of 120 pieces, comprising Wang's and Ho's paintings on Wang's paper.

For gallery-goers who take paper for granted, this is an exhibition that will change their ideas about paper's role in paintings, and ink paintings in particular.

Better known as the "Urban Poet" for a series of poetry collections, Ho's ink paintings have a suave simplicity to them that appeals to modern tastes even when his subjects conform to "Mandarin paintings" conventions.

Golden Lotus on Midnight Blue Paper (磁青紙金荷) is an impressively beautiful work. The solemnity and magnificence usually associated with works of gold on midnight blue paper is replaced by a playfully created sense of mystery and humor.

An accompanying short prose piece at the bottom of the painting expresses Ho's delight in good paper.

Comparing a painter's envy of other painters with good paper to a woman's envy of other women with good looks, Ho said that he's always jealous of others who manage to acquire good paper to work on.

Ink painters and calligraphers in Taiwan usually look for hand-made paper in Hong Kong or Japan, as Chinese rice paper is of inconsistent quality while Taiwanese paper lacks enough good raw materials.

Wang tried to improve the quality of rice paper by turning to ancient scripts on paper-making. It required a lot of deciphering of arcane jargon that ancient Chinese used to discuss papers.

But, after repeated experiments, Wang reconstructed some paper-making procedures and abandoned other mistaken ones. The resulting paper is more durable and absorbs ink to appropriate degrees.

Flower and Leaves on Cold Gold Paper (冷金花葉) was done on a shimmering gold-toned paper with a silky feel. The blank space next to the lotus blossoms highlights the amazing textures of the work.

Silver paper suits landscapes. In Rock Locked in Green Mist (萬壑千巖鎖碧煙) the saturated grey of the paper brings out the greenish blue blots of ink. A natural phenomenon is thus rendered outlandish and yet real.

A large number of the exhibits are done on a kind of imitation Soong dynasty paper with parallel lines.

The conspicuous lines, left by bamboo presses, were considered a drawback at the time. Ho turns these lines to his advantage. The resulting works, mostly landscapes, have an enjoyably quaint and pastoral quality to them.

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