Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 13 News List

[ART JOURNAL] Say it in ink

A new exhibition at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum highlights the dynamism that exists within the usually staid medium of Asian ink painting

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Ink painting in Asia has a venerable tradition, but within the world of contemporary art it has been largely sidelined by Western media such as oil and acrylic. Form, Ideas, Essence, Rhythm: Contemporary East Asian Ink Painting (形•意•質•韻 ─ 東亞當代水墨創作邀請展), curated by art historian Jason Wang (王嘉驥), examines the relationship between modern ink painting and traditional Chinese aesthetics, and the conceptual trends that are driving a new generation of artists.

“Within contemporary art, ink painting is often seen as something traditional, and we may even question whether it has the ability to renew itself to reflect modern aesthetic experiences,” Wang said. “Ink painting is still a major tradition within Asian art, and many artists continue to work and teach within the traditional forms of Asian ink painting, but the real dynamism is being shown by individuals outside the mainstream.”

Artist Pan Hsing-hua (潘信華), who teaches art in Hualien, said his students are mainly interested in studying Western art.

“They feel that ink painting is very distant from them, and being distant it is unfamiliar,” Pan said. “This is very sad. They cannot see a connection between ink painting and the world they live in. An exhibition like this may show them that there is in fact great potential in ink painting.”

The 96 works on display, by 25 artists from four countries — Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea — quickly dispel any idea that ink painting is a thing of the past. These range from the hyper-kinetic manga imagery of Mise Natsunosuke’s My God — Tiananmen (My God — 天安門) to the ultra-minimalismist calm of Yan Shanchun’s (嚴善錞) Searching for West Lake in My Dreams (西湖尋夢).

EXHIBITION NOTES

WHAT: Form, Ideas, Essence, Rhythm: Contemporary East Asian Ink Painting (形•意•質•韻 ─ 東亞當代水墨創作邀請展)

WHERE: Taipei Fine Arts Museum (台北市立美術館) (3A, 3B exhibition areas, 3A, 3B 展區) 181, Zhongshan N Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市中山北路3段181號)

WHEN: Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Until Dec. 28

ENTRY: NT$30 general admission


Chinese artist Xu Bing’s (徐冰) works, which incorporate Chinese calligraphy and include text in characters of his own devising, deconstruct Chinese scholarly ink painting, while Yang Jiechang’s (楊詰蒼) black-on-black series explores the medium of ink in lushly textured monochrome panels.

Buddhist and Daoist iconography are reinterpreted in the works of Lin Ju (林鉅), and echoes of Japanese horror cinema pervade the superficially traditional Nyctalopia (夜盲症) by Fuyuko Matsui.

The work on display is almost bewildering in its range, with far too many permutations to be touched on individually here. While this makes the exhibition exhausting to encompass in a single visit, it also makes a point: ink painting is still very much alive and kicking.

“In most cases, ink painting exhibitions look to the past for their theoretic grounding,” Wang said in a talk introducing the exhibition, which probes the new aesthetics being developed by practicing artists.

Wang said he had purposely rejected organizing the exhibition along national lines, choosing instead thematic categories to investigate the potentialities of ink painting in the contemporary world. “I am not saying that theory must necessarily drive creativity, but ink painting needs to go back to fundamentals and take a serious look at the ideas that contemporary ink painting (in East Asia) is trying to express.”

In all the works chosen by Wang, one can find, though not always easily,

Some connection with traditional ink painting can be found in all the works chosen by Wang, though not always easily. Many of the artists on display have taken this link and traveled to a place very distant from what normally expects from Asian ink painting.

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