Light Snow

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

This painting reveals the influence of Taoism on Liu Kuo-sung’s art, particularly the philosophy that Yin and Yang is the source of all things. Yin and Yang are not to be understood as two opposing forces, but rather as two parts of the same whole, working in unison, creating all life in the universe.

Traditional Chinese painting predominately relies on black lines, and is unable to produce white lines with conventional methods. As a response, Liu Kuo-sung invented the “Ripping the Tendons and Peeling the Skin” technique, in which he rips out the thick fibers on ink-stained rice paper, revealing the original whiteness of the paper underneath. By producing negative white lines from a solid black mass, Liu cleverly creates a visual metaphor of the interaction between Yin and Yang. 

The Yin and Yang theme, represented by the juxtaposition of black versus white, is continued by the setting of the calligraphic brushstrokes against the negative space of the rice paper. The end result is a coherent and energetic composition.

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

Pressing on the Brow

Catalog Entry
The Scripture of a Missionary of Modern Ink Painting II
Uncommon among Liu Kuo-sung’s oeuvre, the subject matter of this painting is exceptionally personal. Its inspiration comes from his wife Li Mo-hua’s eyebrows. Back when the couple first began dating, Liu was immediately drawn toward her eyebrows and the strong personality they conveyed.
Liu Kuo-sung, Pressing on the Brow, 1964 © 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 with Mountain Light Blown into Wrinkles. Photo: Courtesy of Liu Kuo-sung © The Liu Kuo-sung Archives