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Exhibition explores the legacy of Avant-Garde experimental ink painting
Huang Qi, Find, 200cm x 200cm, Oil on Canvas, Mixed Media, 2011. Courtesy

HONG KONG.- presents its new exhibition “Cold Ink”, curated by Tiffany Beres, an expert curator whose research focuses on modern and contemporary ink art. The exhibition presents nine artists: seven from the Cold Ink movement, and two well established masters, who acted as their mentors.

With a history spanning two millennia, ink painting is one of China’s oldest and most respected art forms. Nonetheless, events of the past half-century – from the Cultural Revolution to China’s Open Door Policy – have fundamentally altered the course of this treasured artistic medium.

“Cold Ink” explores the legacy of a group of avant-garde artists, who in the wake of the ’85 New Wave Movement, launched new schools of “experimental ink painting,” referring to non-figurative artistic gestures that sought to question the ink medium itself. They pushed beyond both Eastern and Western art concepts to emphasize unique, personal artistic expressions that form the subject of this show.

The title refers to a society of young, emerging ink artists that the curator has come to know in Beijing. To them, “Cold” does not represent indifference or dispassion, but rather a distancing or recoloring of traditional concepts of Chinese ink painting. These neo-traditionalist artists have all been trained in classical ink painting techniques; yet in their own way, each of them has forged a new artistic idiom that both references heritage and goes beyond the brush.

With great expressive freedom and a wide variety of different media, they are exploring the boundless possibilities of ink transformation, a pursuit that is arguably rare among young artists today. Fang Zhiyong takes inspiration from nature, translating patterns and forms of the environment into personal expressions that capture energy, space and time in each stroke; Li Sa’s geometric abstract paintings rework the concept of empty space in Chinese painting using mixed media on raw canvas; Yu Yang strips his canvases of any representational qualities, using only water, paper and ink to create works that are both pictorial and three-dimensional; Minimalistic and almost scientific in his approach, Yu Jidong explores patterns, gradations and nuances of the ink medium; Huang Qi displays textured surfaces reminiscent of Western oil paintings; Jin Jinghua’s abstract approach uses ink and materiality such as wood as a means of expressing the artist’s inner thoughts; whilst Kong Yan explores the delicate, seemingly weightless effects of ink on paper.

Their experimental work follows in the footsteps of two established master artists who are also joining the exhibition: Zhang Yu and Zheng Chongbin. For more than two decades, these pioneers have made transforming this ancient Chinese art form the defining feature of their artistic visions. Zhang Yu, best known for his Fingerprint series, has subverted the brush for something deeply personal: a practice of mental and physical energy manifested through fingerprint dots on rice paper. Emphasizing the artistic process over imagery, Zheng Chongbin mines the conceptual source and materiality of Chinese painting to evoke higher planes of understanding.

Collectively, these nine exhibited artists are creating works that go beyond the scope of both Chinese ink painting and Western abstract expressionism. They demonstrate distinctive artistic languages that provoke the viewer into a reconsideration of the conventions underlying Chinese ink painting, while also confronting the cultural implications of those conventions. What is evident is that the myriad conceptual, philosophical and behavioral references and ideas perfectly define Cold Ink as a universal vision within our pluralistic international art world.

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Exhibition explores the legacy of Avant-Garde experimental ink painting

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