Mapping each and every image with millions of needle-like dots of ink, Lin (Apex) pang-song forgoes the conventional use of shades and contours, and reconstructs lines and planes with the accumulation of tiny dots. Playing on the viewer’s natural indication to connect the individual dots into coherent images, Lin substantiates the virtuosity of his art.
Reinventing the visual technique of pointillism with elements of ink and wash, Lin pang-soong debuts a bold new series, Invaluable Mountains, which contemplates the relation between Taiwan’s “position” and “spirit.” Lin believes, great or small is only a matter of perspective. Although Taiwan occupies a small position on the globe, Taiwan’s international presence stands large and tall. In terms of cultural diversity and innovation, Taiwan possess a great and unyielding spirit.
Constantly traveling the world, promoting Taiwan’s design on the international stage, Lin Pang-soong is a restless pioneer in the world of Taiwan’s design. However, in painting, Lin adheres to the virtues of steadfastness and perseverance. With unadorned shades of black and white, and clusters of tiny dots, Lin sweeps across the paper in a slow rhythmic trance, leaving an articulated field of meticulous ink dots, thus revealing his idealized inner world of Taiwan’s Invaluable Mountains.
Loftyart Gallery’s Liu Kuo-sung Prints, with the help of Xuyuan International Printmaking Centre, has given Liu Kuo-sung a new perspective on the art of printmaking, in that prints do not merely reproduce the likeness of original artwork, but rather, they recreate its artistic spirit through the language of printmaking, which requires experience, dedicated craftsmanship, and a genuine understanding of the original artwork.
For the last two years, Liu Kuo-sung frequently visited Xuyuan and engaged in deep and comprehensive exchanges with over thirty printmakers from the woodblock, etching, lithograph and silkscreen printing departments. Liu shared with them his belief in Modern Ink Painting, as well as the painting techniques he created. In exchange, the printmakers shared with him the different forms of expression characteristic of the various type of printmaking. As a product of this relationship, the defining artworks of Liu Kuo-sung’s career are recreated in woodblock, etching, lithograph, and silkscreen prints. In response to the printmakers, Liu declared: “you are all artists of recreating my art!”
Loftyart’s first series of Liu Kuo-sung’s autographed handmade limited edition prints, released in October 2014, was met with high approval by Jimmy Lu, Senior Advisor of the Taiwan Art Gallery Association. After visiting Xuyuan upon our invitation in May 2015, Jimmy Lu expressed the possibility for prints to be more remarkable and exciting than original artworks, this is because they incorporate and utilize the fascinating qualities of woodblock, etching, lithograph, and silkscreen printmaking. Authentic prints do not pursue imitation; instead they are a separate art form, taking the original artwork as their basis, to be recreated through the art of printmaking. Lu Jimmy believes the combined effort of Liu Kuo-sung, Loftyart and Xuyuan has set a new standard in contemporary printmaking.
Leading Modern Ink Painting in Becoming the Renowned Mainstream of Chinese Art
– The Missionary of Modern Ink Painting: Liu Kuo-sung Teacher & Student Exhibition
Respected as the Father of Modern Ink Painting in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China, Liu Kuo-sung has promoted the modernization of Chinese art for over fifty years. In order to revitalize Chinese ink painting in accordance to the times, Liu Kuo-sung has initialed new thought in published articles, experimented with unconventional painting materials, and created innovative painting techniques; as well as assembled artist groups, opened numerous classes with a legion of students, and tirelessly hosted countless exhibitions and academic seminars all over the world – all for the development of modern ink painting.
Back in 1965, Liu Kuo-sung boldly stated: “We are neither Chinese living in ancient times, nor are we Westerners. So neither imitating ancient Chinese nor modern Westerners is true creation!” To truly paint as a modern Chinese artist, Liu proscribed: “To paint is to constantly experiment. Break free from the limitations of ink and wash, and experiment liberally with different materials and techniques. Real creation does not allow one hundred percent control.”
Under this epochal proposition, Liu Kuo-song embodied the spirit of a scientist and transformed his studio into a laboratory. He experimented with different types of paper and ink, while absorbing the essence of the Song and Yuan dynasties, as well as studying new means of representation by Western abstract expressionists. Thus Liu successfully implemented wild-cursive calligraphy in creating “Ripping the Tendons and Pealing the Skin” technique in his Abstract Landscape series. Inspired by Cubism and the use of collage, Liu developed his famous Space series. By borrowing water painting from traditional Chinese painting methods, Liu created his “Water-Rubbing” series. Finally, by his lifelong exploration of the spontaneous qualities between ink and water, Liu developed the “Steeped-Ink” technique, and thereby developed his Tibet and Jiuzhaigou series.
With his hard-earned innovations and skillfully honed techniques, Liu Kuo-sung not only shares them with the world, but also openly demonstrates them in public. This is because Liu Kuo-sung’s faith is in art, and modern ink painting is his doctrine. With missionary zeal and dedication, Liu Kuo-sung’s purpose is to promote modern ink painting, so that the genre becomes the mainstream of modern Chinese art.
Since 2010, modern ink painting has implicitly become a worthy rival to oil painting in Chinese contemporary art. Highly acclaimed by international art institutions, collectors, and auction houses, the genre and its rise must be credited to Liu Kuo-sung’s tireless effort in hosting exhibitions and academic seminars across mainland China in the last thirty years. Since then, countless Chinese artists have acknowledged being inspired by Liu’s theories and innovations. In recognition of Liu’s accomplishments and contributions to Chinese art and art education in China, in 2011 China’s Ministry of Culture bestowed Liu with the Chinese Art and Literature Life-time Achievement Award.
In recent years, Liu Kuo-sung has assembled the Tension of the White Line painting group and also Liu Kuo-sung Teacher & Student Exhibition in numerous private and public art museums in Taiwan and China. Together, these artist who share the same faith in modern ink painting, wield their own artistic styles to bring forward brand new possibilities in ink and wash. And yet, this is only the beginning to the rise of the fascinating genre. Liu Kuo-sung’s dream of leading modern ink painting in becoming the renowned mainstream of Chinese art has finally been realized.
Twice visiting the Xuyuan International Print Centre in Beijing, Liu Kuo-sung witnessed months of hard work by over thirty dedicated printers, reproducing the most defining artworks of his career in woodblock, etching, and silkscreen prints. Delighted by the results, Liu kindly told them: “you are all artists of recreating my art!”
When Liu Kuo-sung saw the monumental woodblock print of Roof of the World, which measures one meter by two meters, he was awed by its immense presence, and praised; “this is more dignified than my original!” For the silkscreen print of Blue Light on the Ripples, Liu was overwhelmed by the vivid color, and declared it more beautiful than his original. In addition, Liu has decided to donate specially signed editions to the British Museum, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Harvard Art Museums, and the Hong Kong Museum of Art, in which the original inspirations of these prints belong.
Liu Kuo-sung has long advocated “the art of painting is to constantly experiment,” and has lived up to his words, developing numerous innovative techniques in modern ink painting. Loftyart Gallery’s print project at Xuyuan has given Liu Kuo-sung a new appreciation for printmaking. In participating from start to finish, Liu realized that prints are not mere reproductions of original paintings, but recreations based on their inspirations, that not only reacquire an in-depth understanding of the original artistic will, but also a mastery of printmaking techniques in order to effectively recreate an artwork. In the spirit of experimentation, Liu Kuo-sung has once again challenged the boundaries of his art, and has happily concluded that “this series of prints give [his] artwork a new vitality.”
I have always yearned for a place of my own; a place that provides embrace and sustains leisure – a place of antiquarian atmosphere. In my ears, are rhythms of the zither1 or songs of orioles. On the desk, are scholarly objects, such brushes and ink stones, and other curios from the past. There is a garden; although not vast, it has bamboo stalks that whistle with the wind, and plantain leafs that rattle in the rain. Underneath the greenery, is a lotus pond, filled with goldfish that swim around joyfully, like children at play. Such a place, although constructed countless times in our minds, but only realized partially in real life, provides a window of escapism that set the mind at ease.
Only after viewing Gu Jing’s art, did I realize that the scenes from her paintings and the place I have been yearning for are one and the same. The themes and motifs of Gu’s new ink paintings can be categorized as Paying Respect to Scholar’s Rocks, Appreciating Objects of the Study, Admiring Flowers & Birds, and Wandering through Gardens. These themes and motifs not only reflect Gu’s artistic pursuit as an artist, but also her fascination and respect for the natural world and its many wonders. Moreover, her paintings fantastically portray scenes of my ideal place, inviting me to wander and linger within.
The Chinese literati have long admired limestones of bizarre shapes, known to the West as scholar’s rocks. The literati these natural-forming rocks as embodiments of the naturalist principles of Chinese philosophy, and thus appreciated the rocks’ near-abstract qualities. In Gu Jing’s representation of scholar’s rocks, she initially splashes washes of ink freely onto the silk, allowing it to run and set spontaneously. After careful observation of how the ink settles, she then decides on the composition and skillfully fills in the rock’s contours. In this way, she mimics and honors the natural and spontaneous forming quality of scholar’s rocks.
For contemporary artists of new ink painting, the appreciation and collection of objects of the study, such as antique brushes and ink stones, are both natural and practical. As these objects were handed down from past literati, by once again putting them to proper use, one forms a continuity with the past. While Gu Jing forges a new path in new ink painting, she nonetheless holds a deep respect for the literati tradition she grew out of.
In the traditional genre of flower and bird painting, there are two aspects of admiration. The first is the motifs themselves; unique and rare flowers paired with graceful and elegant birds symbolize beauty and integrity, as they are wonders of the natural world. Secondly, traditional executions of flowers and birds emphasize meticulous brushwork, or gongbi, in portraying the subjects in a fine and realistic manner. Gu Jing’s innovation in this genre is her depiction of glass bottles and vases. By outlining contours with different shades of monochrome ink, and leaving the centre unpainted, Gu effectively creates glass containers in vivd likeness, and thereby demonstrates the traditional Chinese notion of negative space, or liubai.
Classical Chinese gardens essentially encompass all genres of Chinese art; architecture, gardening, painting, calligraphy, poetry, music, and theatre, can all be housed or performed in the garden complex. Therefore, the garden owner becomes the arbiter of all the arts. Similarly, Gu Jing, in her artful representations of gardens, encapsulates all the themes of motifs of her art, including scholar’s rocks, objects of the study, as well as flowers and birds, into single and comprehensive masterpieces.
When appreciating Gu Jing’s art, the character of her name jing, tranquil or quiet, naturally comes to mind. The composition of a painting is reflective a painter’s state of mind, and therefore only a mind at ease can ever create tranquil compositions. In viewing Gu’s paintings and being drawn into the compositions, one shares with her a state of mind that is tranquil or quiet – a mind that is at ease.
Richard MC Chang Translated by Timothy Chang
1. The Chinese zither, or qin, is traditionally made with Wutong wood of the Chinese Parasol tree. Therefore, Wutong is an analogy for the zither.