To celebrate the inauguration of Ink Asia, Alisan Fine Arts is pleased to present “Tracing the Brush: Transformed Text”, a curated selection of calligraphic works by Chu Chu, Fabienne Verdier, Fung Ming-chip, Gu Gan, Wang Dongling, Wang Tiande, Wei Ligang and Yang Jiechang. In choosing the theme for this new art fair, Director Daphne King Yao seeks to examine position of calligraphy in Chinese contemporary ink painting and which trends have gained recognition.
Recognized as an art form in the first century, Chinese calligraphy has a long and hallowed tradition serving as an integral part of art and society. The elevated status and basis of calligraphy is attributed to its functional purpose: as a tool in the formation and promulgation of ideas through written characters. Scholars engraved works with elegiac poems in caoshu script (cursive script), while court scribes in neat lishu script recorded their emperor’s edicts and codified their authority. However as Maxwell K. Hearn, Douglas Dillon Chairman of the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, notes, “calligraphy possesses an intrinsically graphic nature that exists independently of its lexical function.”
Responding to China’s calligraphic history, contemporary artists have sought to deconstruct and reconstruct Chinese calligraphic practices and formulate new methods of [artistic] expression. In “Pain Is Energy, Traditional Script” Fung Ming-chip elicits traces of Chinese characters from layers of water and ink, and these ghost-like ideograms are formed by first dampening certain parts of the paper before writing with a diluted brush. By experimenting with the time and sequence of applying ink, his work transcends its narrative function, and in doing so creates a new calligraphic language. Wang Tiande explores the possibilities inherent to the texture and tactile qualities of ink on paper, and the paper itself. On display are works from his Digital series, consisting of two sheets of paper layered on top of one another and inscribed with a random collection of Chinese characters. The top sheet is composed of translucent material, burned with an incense stick, generating random textures and calligraphic traces, and is distinctive from traditional calligraphy because it is incapable of being reproduced. While Fung conceives new calligraphic languages for consideration, Wang Tiande alludes to the fragility and elusiveness of preserving Chinese culture through a medium that is intrinsically vulnerable and malleable.
Gu Gan is considered a pioneer and the forefather of the Modern Calligraphy Movement, revolutionary for his understanding that the arrangment of characters and compositions shapes the meaning of the piece. Rooted in the age-old Chinese tradition of calligraphy, his paintings vary from bold calligraphic strokes to fine lines combined with images such as trees, flowers, fish or the Buddha to form an abstract work. Internationally acclaimed Chinese calligrapher, and current Director of the Modern Calligraphy Study Center at the China National Academy of Fine Art, Wang Dongling has been enormously influential on the development of contemporary calligraphy and ink painting. Striving to cultivate a bond between traditional Chinese calligraphy and the modern lifestyle and cityscape, his calligraphy works serve as a platform to spread appreciation of classical art in contemporary society. He is known for public performances of monumental cursive script calligraphy. In 2013, he was invited by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Ink Society to give a calligraphy performance at the museum.
The founder and a leading figure of the post-modern calligraphy movement known as “Calligraphyism” in mainland China during 1980s, Luo Qi graduated from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou in 1986 and was a lecturer until 1996. Luo manipulates the structure of ancient Chinese characters, such as inscriptions on bronze and bones, and uses traditional brushstrokes to create non-semantic forms. By painting in bold, bright colours with ink on paper or oil on canvas, borrowing from Pop Art styles, he breaks away from traditional calligraphy and incorporates a strong modern, abstract element that may seem reminiscent of Franz Kline or Robert Motherwell.
Known as a maverick among China’s contemporary abstract calligraphers, Wei Ligang simultaneously recalls tradition while reconstituting ‘standard’ ink work. Wei Ligang adapts traditional calligraphic scripts (such as cursive, formal or running) and Chinese characters from famous poems to create abstract art. Since his landmark exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1989, Yang Jiechang has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, producing an oeuvre that varies in style, medium and inspirations. Featured are his calligraphic works on ink and canvas with video recordings of him painting. Art Historian Martina Köppel-Yang writes, “The disturbing repetition of the words in writing and in sound [of Oh My God and Oh Diu] startles the viewer and alters their perception…using disruption and imbalance to engender clarity and balance.” Yang’s works refer to critical subjects and real events, and these calligraphic works challenge viewers to question their position within society and society itself.
Previously a PhD candidate at the China Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou under the mentorship of Wang Dongling, Chu Chu began studying oil painting, before experimenting with mixed media works. In a previous exhibition at Alisan Fine Arts, Chu Chu, for the first time, showed her ink painting compositions depicting “a dynamic flow between the painted lines of the image and the jotted text… [and] taking the idea of xieyi, ‘writing meaning,’ to a new level… [where] meaning can be enhanced by calligraphy and unbound by words, too.” At Ink Asia, Chu Chu presents her new colourful landscapes composed of lines and lines of minute calligraphy, further developing her calligraphic works. Fabienne Verdier is “not just another master calligrapher…shifting continuously between Western painting and Chinese writing has brought Fabienne Verdier to re-think the relationship between sign and background.” In one sense, Verdier’s works are representative of the push towards reconceptualising the form of calligraphy, not devoid of meaning, but moving away from calligraphy’s lexical function –a tenant promoted by Gu Gan, and evident in the 7 other calligraphers presented in this exhibition. Her work perhaps is best explained by an interest in line, and the forms created from using monumental brushes, to the extent of using machinery, further developing the tradition.
Between these artists exist the traces of a tradition and civilization, leaving behind the tangible signs of feelings and expressions on paper. While some favour a complete break away from the rigorous and rigid rules they believe to constrain traditional calligraphy, others have recognized that our concept of tradition is ever changing. So they seek a new format, a new expressive modality, creating works that reify and deconstruct calligraphy, and ultimately transforming this text.
洛齊，中國大陸上世紀八十年代後現代書法運動「書法主義」的發起人和倡導者，1986年畢業於杭州中國美術學院後，留校任教至1996年。他的水墨系列寫上從篆書變化出來的「洛齊字體」，將簡潔的線條和色塊拼湊出幾何形狀，有如普普藝術的特色，粗粗看來，是他的繪畫的字迹。洛氏從中國書法傳統藝術中，開拓出一個新的東方抽象藝術之路，正好與美國抽象畫派大師克萊因(Franz Kline)和馬瑟韋爾(Robert Motherwell)有異曲同工之妙。
儲楚，七十後的中國跨媒體藝術家，2012 年獲杭州中國美術學院書法系博士，師從著名國際現代書法家王冬齡。擅長水墨畫、書法、攝影和油畫，別具才華，作品以混合運不同媒介創作新的視覺果為主。藝倡畫廊於去年首次展出她的作品，「在她的畫裡圖像和文字彼此交融，在乾與濕、彩色與水墨之間取得和諧，文寫出心意，圖像畫出新境界。」 是次展出的最新系列中，靈感來自傳統山水畫，繪畫了由極細緻的書法筆觸組成的金山銀水名山大川的精緻扇面作品。「法比恩不是千年書法傳統下的另一位大師……在西方繪畫與中國書法間的不斷遊走使法比恩重新思考意象與背景的關係。」 意思指，法比恩書法式的抽象作品，不是複製文字的表象，而是沉醉於默想過程的意象，提出書法的新概念。正如今次展覽的古干和另外七位書法家，他們的作品都表現了創新的書法意念，而法比恩的作品可能是最能表達書法性線條的趣味，她運用絹印的技法，在絹網上畫上粗獷的破筆、瀟灑優美的筆法，氣勢磅礡，把傳統延續發展下去。