Exhibitions         Art Fairs          Artists          About          Contact



Cortex & Skin - A Joint Exhibition of Four Ink-Wash Artists from Shanghai


Artists: Wang Jie-Yin, Liu Yong-Tao, Sun Yuan, Wang Yi-Chu

Curator: Wu Jia-Jing

Exhibition Time: Wed. 12th July 2017 ~ Sat. 26th 2017

Art Forum: 2pm~4pm Sat. 15th July 2017

Exhibition Introduction:

As a painting with a long history, ink art limits artists using only water and ink as the artistic mediums. They select specific support materials such as silk, Shuen, and cotton, etc. and use techniques like lines, strokes, splashes, and layers to create images, developing artistic vocabulary and formal language special for wash drawing.

Bearing the aesthetic tradition and long-used mediums, ink art always faces a difficult question of how to show like contemporary performance. On various experiments on media carried out by contemporary ink artists, Dr. Kao, Chien Hui said, “We cannot regard material media as subjects which own subject consciousness…These mediums would never develop ‘contemporaneity’ such a concept of humanity.”  In other words, real contemporaneity is not only based on selecting new mediums, but also on the way that the artists “manipulate art”– how to turn out an innovative space in the context of current mediums and the humanistic background? How to embody sensory experience of each artist through common and traditional mediums?

Titled as Cortex & Skin, this exhibition attempts to identify the artists’ manipulation interfaces through concepts from other fields. ‘Cortex & Skin’ implicates the following: 1) Building skin, a transmission medium between inside space and outside environment, which can, for the building, withstand environmental stress outside and satisfy living needs inside. 2) Cortex used as a biology term, is the 3-mm-thick outer layer of the cerebrum, composed of folded gray matter and divided into areas according to different functions. The cerebral cortex receives information outside and processes them inside; furthermore, it connects all the senses and learns the logic of language through movements. Whether it is the building skin or the cerebral cortex, both point out the function of the transmission medium. Through differentiating between relations and levels of space, ‘Cortex & Skin’ defines interior, connects inside and outside, and creates a specific expressive form.

Cortex/skin performs the function of the transmission medium, and it is the same with ink art support materials – the support materials have important meaning to the artists, especially the most common support material: paper, which is usually quite light and less than 0.2 mm thick. Instead of putting colors layer after layer up on paper, specific techniques used within ink art creation help ink and pigment adhere to paper where the ink and pigment naturally percolate down through the fibers, making images vaster than frames. At the same moment, the artists have to adapt the techniques they use to the physical characteristics of paper and that are how individual artistic language developed. To put it another way, from the beginning (the artists start imagining) to the end (the works are done), paper is just like cortex/skin detecting, receiving, carrying, controlling their creation consciousness and expression style and reflects their manipulation and thoughts in a subtle, delicate way.

Cortex & Skin — A Joint Exhibition of Four Ink-Wash Artists from Shanghai invites WANG Jie-yin, SUN Yuan, LIU Yong-tao, and WANG Yi-chu, all live in Shanghai now, to discuss the question of brush/ink, shape/color, and space/frame as well as how contemporary ink-wash artists develop their creation thesis and artistic sensory by deciding which paper and technique to use each and every time.

  • Language Translation: WANG Jie-yin and Ink Dot Genes

Behind all the ink works of Wang Jie-yin including Landscape Notes, Ethereal, and Dot Imagery in Series there always is the clear manipulation logic. On used Shuen paper, Wang drew lots of dots with brushes, then he drew with ink and water-based pigments to complete the images. For Wang, the colors and ink left on the used paper are like existing ‘genes’ passed on from parents. Depending on the secret coding, he could arrange some dots and ink pattern blocks at random and the others at certainty to let them ‘grow’ corresponding tissue and structure in an ecological way.

Unlike the polka dots painted by Yayoi Kusama, the ink dots drawn by Wang are not that round, but different in size and color. Drawn by hand in a way he likes, every dot seems a countable moment and could represent the imagery in the artist’s mind. Take Landscape Notes for instance, the ink dots spread over all space and are perfectly even, which reminds us of the dots in Travelers among Mountains and Streams by Fan Kuan. The dots drawn by Fan are used for showing volume of things, but the ink dots by Wang are like a collage of screentones. Those countless ink dots, heavy and light, create a space and depth which are different from those of ‘three distances’. In between traditional and contemporary art, Wang takes his time coining new vocabulary in order to respond to his thoughts on ink art after a long time.

  • Limbic System: Sun Yuan and the Spread of Collective Unconscious

The ink art works of Sun Yuan show his double searches for paper and subject sensation. Through Allegory of the Herd, Sun did not follow a painting tradition of creating an illusion of space on paper, but chose to use old paper because of its low percolation rate or to use fishing-net rubbing because of its inorganic grid lines in order to make enclosed spaces without any depth and let images remain on ‘the surface’. The herd in a frame is intertwined and overlaid with the paper texture, where features of the texture are more like an intuitive representation of collective unconscious rather than a simple making use of paper textures or qualities. For Sun, intentionally leaving the traditional techniques is to respond to the references to each other of his thoughts and artistic vocabulary: subjects dissolve. In this way, he also put what he talked about “unappealing images” into practice.

Take Allegory of the Herd No.29 for example, Sun used papers with two fracture toughness to show ragged images after they were made a collage and mounted. A smooth surface of Shu Sheun, as thin as cicada’s wings, is peeled off like bruises on the skin. The herd without a clear face walks among the broken fibers of the paper. Sun’s works are allegory of an atmosphere of the herd moves unconsciously in a city. Enclosed in a world with a given width and no depth, people conform blindly and keep walking, and in the end everyone must dissolve in several shades of ink.

  • Somatosensory Cortex: LIU Yong-Tao and the Vaguely Forgotten City Scenes

Liu Yong-Tao is interested in two theses: one is cities, and the other is scenes. He emphasizes the tension of lines, the strokes, and the good sense of how to arrange the color, but the angle of view taken in his works is apparently unlike that in traditional ink-wash landscape painting, which shows cities and scenes in his unique style. In Forgotten City in Series, Liu found the logic of fabric in the city scenes, and carefully structured the kinetic elements and components of the city, then arranged the space dimension of the image through lines, dry-brushes, light ink, etc. The city’s profile is built in a way that the artist summoned and recreated every transient motion in the city, rather than an abstract Mondrian-ish process removing things.

In Wild Grass in Series, Liu captured a vast mess of grass from a low angle of view. He cut high-speed lines to balance the whole image, drew the grass tips with light ink to make them blur like a time after-image of grass photographed swinging in the wind. In About Looking, John Berger wrote: “Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it.”  The ink-wash works of Liu also have the visual character of a photograph. The lines and washes adhering to rough bast paper are like silver salt develops on film base; however, the cities and wilds he drew needn’t to be photosensitive. In his paintings, time leaves its after-image, memory dissolves into lines, and the rest blank space is just ‘abstract’ enough, which is just what the artist said: “A true appearance of a colorful city after it leaves all ostentation behind.”

  • Interface Control: Wang Yi-Chu and Production of Flatten Space

It’s quite interesting that the works of WANG Yi-chu have some features similar to works drawn with fine brush heavy ink. Though both painted rich colors and dense lines on the same support material, Shu Sheun, the works of Wang are not like the traditional ones focus on details of objects. Wang’s thesis is to draw an unclear vast space in order to get the unplanned characteristics of ink art materials back.

In Iris and Stary Night, Wang used untraditional silver acrylic paints filling up all spaces among fibers, and put layer after layer of light colors on. Because she used not only traditional ink art paints, but also watercolor paints, mineral paints, and acid dyes with various cover degrees, these different paints overlapped each other creating a delicate tinting - hence the images show the physical flow and fusion of chemical pigments. On a piece of mutable support material, the artist used geometrical lines to structure patterns like constellations. Those patterns link fractured two-dimensional blocks, in turn show an ever changing visual space, and generate the depths of imagination. Imagery of landscape where viewers can go freely between symbols and color layers.


[1] Kao, Chien Hui, “Traditional vs. Contemporary— The Cultural Perspective and Discourse Viewpoint of Contemporary Ink Art”, Transpassing: Special Studies on Contemporary Asia Art in 2010s, Taipei: Artouch, 2013, p. 305.

[1] John Berger, “Uses of Photography,” About Looking, New York: Pantheon Books, 1980, p. 54