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New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond
Valerie C DORAN
at 10:24pm on 7th October 2008

It is always a happy occurrence when one visits a ‘survey’ exhibition and finds that the art selected reveals an implicit, cogent narrative that imparts fresh information to an ostensibly old story. This is the case with ‘New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond’, curated by Alice King and on view at the Hong Kong Museum of Art through 26 October 2008. Exhibiting 64 works by 30 Chinese artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China (and including a number of expatriate artists), the exhibition has a dual mission: on the one hand, to demonstrate the semiotic quality of ink as both an artistic and cultural material, and on the other, to emphasize the seminal role that Hong Kong artists such as Lui Shou Kwan, founder of the New Ink Painting Movement in the 1960s, have played in the revitilization of ink painting as a contemporary art. The range of works represented is surprising and gratifying, covering everything from the expressive figure painting of Ding Yanyong to the installation art of Wang Tiande, whose Ink Banquet—an assemblage of tables, chairs, and dining implements covered in xuan paper and painted in expressive splash-ink brushwork—is one of the highlights of the show. Happily, this genre-defying aspect of the exhibition has inspired a certain amount of controversy among ink-painting devotees-- always a healthy sign, of course.

The show is the second instalment of the Museum’s ‘Open Dialogue’ exhibition series, a welcome new initiative by the Museum to work with independent curators. Guest curator Alice King has long been a champion of modern and contemporary ink painting, both in her role as a private gallerist and as founding member and chairman of the Ink Society of Hong Kong. In the latter capacity, she has been pushing for years for the establishment of a museum in Hong Kong dedicated solely to “ink art.” The logic behind this proposal is that ink painting in an Asian context represents an entirely different conceptual terrain to the Western painting tradition, and that as such, its extrapolation into a genre of contemporary experimental art also must be understood as devolving along this distinctively different trajectory. In the exhibition, King has managed to bring these points home not so much through curatorial analysis, as through the simple expedient of an intelligent selection of works that allows the art to speak for itself. Although the works are arranged by somewhat loosely linked curatorial ‘themes’ (‘Beyond Tradition’, ‘City Life’, etc), the physical installation is awkward to follow and one tends to simply wander around – which in fact works much better. Bouncing around from Lui Shou Kwan’s beautiful, minimalist Zen Painting I to Wang Chung-yu’s digital Memory of Stars, a visitor can make his/her own connections and discover something fresh and unexpected in the process. In sum, a show well worth wandering through.

Exhibition: New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond
Date: 22.8 – 26.10.2008
Venue: Hong Kong Museum of Art
Enquiries: 852 2721 0116

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