Surpassing any other medium, ink painting has embodied ideas of the Chinese culture and its arc of identity throughout the millennia. In Southeast Asia, with ink artists from the Chinese diaspora predominantly based in Singapore, the pioneer-generation artists continued with the literati ink tradition in the Nanyang. The avant-garde amongst them started their collective search for a local artistic identity, which signified the beginning of the regional modernist movement now referred to as the “Nanyang Style”.
Through works of two Singaporean artists and three Chinese artists, ‘Thinking Ink: Improvisations on Cultural Criteria’ examines the varied ink practices with an aim to develop an appreciation for how ink artists, despite their different contexts and use of strategies, communicate contemporary narratives by striking a dialogue with the past. These artists innovate through their technique, subject matter, aesthetic, conceptual approach, or a combination of these, while at the same time maintaining references to the tradition and the culture.
Iconic Singaporean artist Chua Ek Kay (1947 – 2008), was a second-generation artist trained in traditional ink painting, whose monumental journey to push the boundaries and renew the relevance of the traditional art form began in the 1980s. Third-generation artist Hong Sek Chern (b. 1967), was nurtured and enriched by the ink tradition but unfettered by it. In her work, she expands interpretations and re-contextualizes contemporary ink painting within Singapore. Inspired by their Nanyang Style predecessors’ search for local identity, both artists employ the blending of East-West techniques and the localized subject matter to rejuvenate the literati ink tradition with relevance for Singapore and the region.
In addition, prominent Chinese ink artists Gu Gan (b. 1942), Gu Wenda (b. 1955) and Wei Ligang (b. 1964) are highlighted for their similar interest in engaging with their cultural heritage using ink as a medium. Through referencing the art of Chinese calligraphy and Chinese characters, they have sought to critically explore the artistic possibility of abstract aesthetic while retaining proximity to the Chinese scripts.
Collectively, these 5 important contemporary ink artists from Singapore and mainland China represent significant tangents, if not points of departure, in the ink art’s contemporary discourse.
Exhibition Walkthrough with Chinmiao Hsu: 4 August 2017, Friday, 7 – 8 pm
Venue: Gajah Gallery (39 Keppel Road #03-04, Tanjong Pagar Distripark)
When: 28 Jul - 20 Aug 2017, weekdays 11am - 7pm; weekends 12noon - 6pm
By: Gajah Gallery