What springs to mind when you hear “Chinese Ink Art”?
Perhaps a typical mountainous landscape with a mythical touch, the mountain tops seeming to lift themselves high above the skies?
Ink Remix: Contemporary art from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong challenges these traditional notions of Chinese ink art and shows at the Museum of Brisbane from the 16th of September 2016 until the 19th of February 2017.
Ink Remix is an extraordinary exhibition for audiences to explore the way Chinese art is morphing during the twenty-first century. Curator, Dr Sophie McIntyre, has successfully brought together works from Chinese artists born after 1960, thematically considering landscape, body, language and spirituality. By focusing exclusively on younger artists, Ink Remix reflects questions of a contemporary generation using a long-established form. While some of the works also engage with what might also be considered “traditional” themes in Chinese art, these contemporary artists are breaking ink art traditions, using other mediums to reinterpret the form and creating pieces that address social issues.
Several works stand out in this comprehensive and beautiful exhibition, including Yao’s Journey to Australia (below), a spectacular piece placed at the entrance of the exhibition, which sets the ambience for audience engagement with rich gold leaf against blue ink drawings featuring elements of Australian landscape.
Equally, Yang Yongliang, a young Shanghainese artist, demonstrates this “stretching of form”, by continuing to use the traditional shan shui practice in a video called “Rising Mist” that addresses the issue of urbanisation and pollution.
Yang’s work demonstrates the impact of development on Chinese society with the signature Chinese landscape is used as a base motif in the video. Upon closer inspection, however, the mountains are created with densely packed highrises. Where the rivers and streams once flowed through the mountains, there are streets filled with cars, buses and trucks. The mist in the background gradually covers the artwork, just as the serious air pollution that invades the cities. China is infamous for its pollution cased by industrial production and development in big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai. The beauty of the Chinese landscape is disturbingly created by the exhausts of urban development.
Another highlight is a work created by Wilson Shieh. This piece reflects the architecture and society in Hong Kong. Using the famous city line of Hong Kong, Shieh produces an artistic comparison of a before-and-after the handover back to China. This change strongly impacted Hong Kong society and until today stirs identity crises and concerns about government control. Creatively, Shieh has used the signature buildings in Hong Kong across different periods of time to reference change, the change in the styles of buildings reflecting the changing nature of individuals. Before the handover, the women are dressed with unique and multi-coloured gowns cut into the local buildings in that era and after the handover, the women are dressed with architectural gowns that are rather more monotone and constant.
Inward and outward-looking, Ink Art is exhibition a highlight of the Museum of Brisbane programming.
Ink Remix shows at Museum of Brisbane from 17 September to 19 February. The Museum of Brisbane also provides exhibition tours in Mandarin, aiming to reach Australia’s Mandarin-speaking community.