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South Island Art Brunch: Is It Ink Art? Works by Liu Jian and Zhang Yu

Exhibition details

24 March, 2016
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Event Category:

24 March 10am-2pm Art Basel’s South Island Art Brunch

Mimosa and cupcake brunch with guided tours in the presence of the artists

Performance and Installation Art by Zhang Yu

Free shuttle bus available from Central (World Wide House/Pedder House) and Art Basel Hong Kong (Grand Hyatt) to Alisan Fine Arts, www.sicd.com.hk for more info

The contemporary ink art discourse trends towards two principal questions: What is ink art? And is it defined solely by medium and/or philosophy? In answer to these questions Alisan Fine Arts is pleased to present Is It Ink Art? showcasing new works by Liu Jian (b. 1961) and Zhang Yu (b. 1959), which will leave viewers questioning whether the artworks on display constitute the emergence of a new ink form, or a rupture with ink art’s hollow traditions.

Lu Hong, Artistic Director at the Shenzhen Art Museum, writes that the history of ink painting is comprised of an adherence to a strict formal paradigm and system of values, which are often interwoven. Attending to the first part of Lu’s statement, Liu Jian’s latest works embrace traditional painting techniques, especially in his emphasis of lines and the freedom of his brushstrokes. However, though his works preserve the essence of traditional Chinese painting, he diverges from the standard method of recalling past tropes or mimicking canonical works. He blends together traditional and abstract styles, in sombre black and grey tones, with hints of colour here and there. Rather the artist’s works are embodiments of his experiences and education, like dreamscapes of what ink paintings could be, with the term “ink” loosely reified by his technical execution.

In contrast to Liu Jian, Zhang Yu’s new installation work moves beyond the boundaries of ink painting’s traditional media, and ponders the conceptual framework and ink painting’s philosophical underpinnings. On display is “Ascending”, the work is a performance, time and process piece, involving multiple steps, and significantly movement. Historically any discussion of ink painting involves the brush and ink, and the artist’s brushstroke, as evidenced by the discussion of Liu Jian. However, Zhang Yu’s work leaves behind this relationship, with brush replaced by teapot, and ink supplanted by water and tea. On a piece of xuan paper, the artist has placed rows of porcelain bowls, periodically filling them with pu’er tea. As the bowls overflow the paper becomes stained, and eventually dries leaving behind a brownish-black wash of colour. In doing so, the artist directly engages with the audience’s reception of the work, which is undoubtedly influenced by at what moment they see the piece. In the process the work questions the permanence of the water itself, and in a further step, the permanence of the work in its ‘original’ and ‘final’ stages. The contemplation of permanence and impermanence lies in both Daoist and Buddhist traditions, and notably reflected in historical Chinese painting.

Both works are perhaps best understood when read in light of “The Dream of a Butterfly” by Zhuangzi. As one form can transcend its current state to become something else, so can this transformation demonstrate the so called differences are not so absolute. If Liu Jian’s works are the dream, then perhaps Zhang Yu’s works are the butterfly.

About Liu Jian

Liu Jian was born in 1961 Shanghai, and at 18 he was one of the few accepted to attend the Beijing People’s Army Art College. At twenty-four, he was made life-time resident of the Traditional Chinese Painting Academy, Shanghai. There he met and worked with many prolific painters, and learned first-hand both Northern and Southern styles of traditional Chinese art. A photograph from the artist’s study shows Liu Jian as a young man addressing a group of elderly masters including Wu Guanzhong and Ye Qianyu. After several major shows across France, Germany, and Italy, the artist eventually settled in Canada. Throughout his artistic career he has been exposed to various schools of artistic practices.

Alisan Fine Arts first showed works in 1987 during the landmark exhibition “A State of Transition, Contemporary Paintings from Shanghai” which included fourteen artists such as Chen Jialing, Li Shan, Zhang Guiming, and Zhang Jianjun at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, this was one of the first exhibitions in Hong Kong to showcase mainland Chinese artists. Since then Alisan Fine Arts has held four solo exhibitions for the artist. His works have been collected by the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong; the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto, Canada; Bank of China, Hong Kong; Grand Hyatt Taipei, Taiwan; Prince Haik, Austria.

About Zhang Yu

Zhang Yu was born in Tianjin, China in 1959 and graduated from the Tianjin Academy of Arts and Crafts in 1988. Throughout his artistic career he has been engaged with the language of art and experimental ink painting, contributing to and reforming the discursive boundaries of ink art. His early series, Divine Light, became internationally recognized when they were included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, Ink Art: Past As Present in Contemporary China, in 2013. The artist is also well-known for his Fingerprint and installation works, which have been exhibited in major exhibitions in China, Taiwan, Europe and America.

His works have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong; Benetton Museum, Venice, Italy; Chengdu Modern Art Museum, Chengdu, China; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Chinese Culture Center, San Francisco, CA, USA.


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