Mid-Autumn Festival

The Scripture of a Missionary of Modern Ink Painting II, Lofty Culture & Art, 2015
by Elaine Suyu Liu

Of Liu Kuo-sung’s abstract paintings, those with Chinese holidays as the subject matter express a very traditional sentiment. Mid-Autumn Festival celebrates the Chinese people’s poetic fascination with the moon, extending a literary tradition thousands of years old.

Mid-Autumn Festival draws on a playful feature of Liu Kuo-sung’s oeuvre: a painting within a painting. The top is crafted by a collage of geometric shapes, which creates a sense of spatial ambiguity. Questions arise on whether the moon is contained within the yellow frame, or superimposed on top of it. While the geometric shapes are arranged by rationality, the calligraphic brushstrokes below are born of sensibility. The former is a product of the West, and the latter is a sentiment of the East. The juxtaposition of the two is sophisticated and a perfect balance between rationality and sensibility.

Liu Kuo-sung’s calligraphic brushstrokes and the “Ripping the Tendons and Pealing the Skin” technique brilliantly represent the surface textures of the moon and Earth. The brushstrokes produce mysterious markings like craters on the moon, and the “Ripping the Tendons and Pealing the Skin” technique creates organic textures in the rice paper resembling the mountainous surface of the Earth. In terms of color, the overall composition is immersed in an atmosphere of yellow. The warm glow from the moon above is gently reflected on the ground below, symbolizing the moon’s presence felt by the Earth.

Liu Kuo-sung, Mid-Autumn Festival, 1969, Mixed-Media on Paper, 119.5 x 79 cm © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives

Icy Tree with Silver Branches

Catalog Entry
What Liu Kuo-sung’s Icy Tree with Silver Branches Conveys Is Perseverance
Set against an icy outcrop, clusters of snow-clad branches dominate the painting. Despite the weight of winter snow, the branches remain upright and shoot toward the sky, patiently waiting for the arrival of spring.
Liu Kuo-sung, Icy Tree with Silver Branches, 2009 © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives

Mountain Light Blown Into Wrinkles

Catalog Entry
The Scripture of a Missionary of Modern Ink Painting II
Starting in 1977, Liu Kuo-sung spent nearly a decade exploring and perfecting his technique of “Water-rubbing.” This dedication illustrates Liu’s “revolution against the brush,” and the notion that great painting can be created with or without the brush. Mountain Light blown into Wrinkles is a representative work from this inspiring period of experimentation and creativity.
Liu Kuo-sung, Mountain Light blown into Wrinkles, 1985 © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives

Spring of Old Banyan

Catalog Entry
The Scripture of a Missionary of Modern Ink Painting II
This painting is a representative work of Liu Kuo-sung’s “Ink-staining” technique. Liu began experimenting with technique in the 1980s; utilizing the seeping quality of ink, he rid the image of preconceived brushstrokes, in search of a more natural and spontaneous effect.
Liu Kuo-sung, Spring of Old Banyan, 1993 © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives