A Square of Water: Chen Jiu and His Water Series
Exhibition time: Sat. 18th June 2016 – Sat. 23th July 2016
Curator： WU JIA-JING
- Why the countless movement of water is so fascinating?
Artists has observed “water” qualities for a long time. In Northern Song dynasty, Guo Shi and his son emphasized that water is living thing in “Treatise on Mountains and Waters” and said, “its figure looks profound, looks smooth, looks vast as ocean, looks circular, looks greasy, looks surging, looks spurting, looks fountful, looks flowing long, looks cascade intruding into the sky, looks inserting into the earth, looks nourishing for fishing, looks nurturing for plants, looks carrying mists and clouds for beautiful, looks shining the valley for brilliant.” In Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci also wrote many manuscripts on water. In these manuscripts, he drew numerous flowing motions and focused on the aspect of its rapid changes.
Not only in Ma Yuen’s water paintings but also in da Vinci’s scientific studies, we can both see their observations and experiments on nature mainly focusing on the expressions of water movement relationship. These works must simultaneously emphasize visible surface of flowing movements and reveal states and body of water in nature. Thus, artists use painting brushes to capture the ever-changing movement of water in the most marvelous moment and combine this moment with environments, dissolving them into countless, creative but real “water spectacles.” Take traditional ink paintings for example, to maintain the expressive quality of ink and water and to show different living aspects of water, painters mainly try to use lines to capture water movements and wash in distinct dark levels to display the thickness of water. By doing so, they hope to contain water’s flows and vastness, reaching the “precise and marvelous skill” level.
- Scientific expression: using water to depict water
In the multi-context of contemporary ink painting, Chen Jiu chooses to return to the root, creating water series paintings. However, under the influence of modern science, his expression of water no longer confines to water’s movements on the surface, but steps into the micro-world—using water atom as the smallest unit in its movement. Although this change forces him to use ink as media, nevertheless he departs from ways of depicting water by lines and washing ink levels in traditional painting system. Using overlapped ink blocks to express water’s texture, he captures the crystalized atomic changes that cannot been detected by naked eyes. Interestingly, this practice not only returns to water’s thin and transparent nature, but also to the ink painting itself and its basic elements—water and ink. By controlling water in ink and water absorbency of paper, water as media can break its secondary role for brush skill in traditional framework. Water’s variation as media becomes the foundation of water painting, maintaining these paintings with water body and movement quality. Thus, what his works display is rather than the external appearance, but water’s different living dimensions—the static and moving states, the complex coding, structures, compiled and motivated conciousness, and sentimental projecting water appearances.
- Literary investigation—depicting water with sentiments
Most Chen Jiu’s ink paintings have literary materials or cultural meaning contexts. What his works contain is still base on Chinese traditional cultural context. For the artist, Laozi’s idiom, “the top virtue is like water, benefitting all, contending with none” contains mutual meaning of water and virtues, but water’s “man-like” character and sublime does not confine to clear and peaceful moral quality. The artist instead focuses on complex level of water’s mixing with all objects without traces. Take his works “Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter” and “Fall Water, High Cloud” for examples, seasons are based on the structure of lunar calendar which is followed by moonrises and moonsets. Water likes all object in nature, works and changes every day. From “time” sense, water does not limit in different movements attributed to specific environment, but more closes to ordinary slices, configurative possibilities of every square of water in different moments of the same water sphere. On the other hand, we can discover the sentimental aspect of water in Chen Jiu’s “Fall Water, Moon” and “Fall Water, Purification”. In that, water is considered to be a mirror of mind and it flows from white scroll. By overlapping ink blocks to compose stretching water sphere, leaving clear ink spots and light in the middle section, he transfers fall water to a sphere beyond chronology and strengthens the spiritual meaning of life itself.
- From staying in waterside to a square of living water
The different aspects of water under Chen Jiu’s brush, from “using water to depict water” to “sentimental illustrations of water”, all contain strong inclusiveness. On one hand, his ink works are full of literary feelings to explore internal and natural orders; on the other hand, these works are contemporary, which care for composition, destruction and rhythm and insist on using traditional media with contemporary ways of observations and concepts.
Chen Jiu’s “Water” series blurs the limit figure of water, re-finding living states in every drop and every field. The painting borders is no longer the window of artist and no longer the endless sentimental waterside. Every waterscape in Chen Jiu’s work is a new and endless field, containing countless possible and exquisite imaginations.