Spring of Old Banyan

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

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.

“Ink-staining” also utilizes the absorbent nature of rice paper, which allows the ink to spread more freely than the cotton papers normally used in Liu’s artworks. However, the most remarkable element of the painting is the twisting and turning lines found on the weathered trunk of the old banyan tree. On the tangled branches, Liu cleverly sprinkled spots of red and yellow, appearing as fruits on the old tree, and acting as the life of the image. On the bottom of the painting lies an earthy beige, symbolizing the nurturing earth from which the banyan grows, while the top is covered by an array of emerald green, like a blanket of leaves and shade provided by the old tree. Together, all the colors on the painting blend and interact harmoniously, in a vivid poetic resonance.

In painting, Liu Kuo-sung opposes the notion of a preconceived composition, and instead treasures the painterly process of creation, in which the composition develops and changes as the painting is executed. Fostering spontaneity of the “Ink-staining” technique, Spring of Old Banyan is a great testament to this notion.

Liu Kuo-sung, Spring of Old Banyan, 1993, Ink and Color on Paper, 66 x 76 cm, Collection of Shandong Museum, Jinan, China © 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

Floating Mountain Peak

Catalog Entry
The Scripture of a Missionary of Modern Ink Painting II
Floating Mountain Peak is a major work of Liu Kuo-sung’s “Water-rubbing” technique. “Water-rubbing” is an important component to Liu’s “revolution against the brush,” and a total rejection of the dominance of refined brushwork in traditional Chinese painting.
Liu Kuo-sung, Floating Mountain Peak, 1976 © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives