Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong is pleased to present Meditations in Nature: New Ink, an exhibition curated by Olivia Wang that brings together ten contemporary artists working in the time-honored tradition of Chinese ink painting. Each of these artists have found a unique form of self expression in this traditional method, bringing a two thousand year old art practice firmly into the contemporary realm. These mystical, meditative, nature-inspired works pay reverence to the rich artistic past of China and demonstrate that artists do not have to make radical departures from the past in order to innovate.
Chinese ink painting is deeply connected to the natural and spiritual world. Literati painters, Chinese scholars and philosophers versed in the arts, have been finding inspiration in the depths of nature since the Tang dynasty. While ink painting is not necessarily a literal rendering of nature, these painters seek to record the sublimity and spiritual wonder of it through their work. These works, painted with ink and brush on paper or silk, often depict trees, mountains, rocks, waterfalls, lakes and rivers—celebrations of the majestic power of the natural world as well as metaphors for human values and emotions.
The exhibition features works by Cai Xiaosong, Arnold Chang (Zhang Hong), Koon Wai Bong, Li Huayi, Liu Dan, Luo Jianwu, Master of the Water Pine Stone Retreat, Ou Da Wei, Tai Xiangzhou and Zhang Yirong. While each of these contemporary artists hold great reverence for the traditions of Chinese ink painting, they have put their own unique mark on the practice. In his Planet (2009) works, Cai Xiaosong upends the customary Chinese ink depiction of rocks by painting intricate striations and veins of rocks on round sheets of silk, suggestive of planets orbiting in space, and referencing the ancient Chinese belief that the universe is a manifestation of the forces of nature. Luo Jianwu’s A Thousand Year Old Camphor (2014) and Crouching Dragon Pine at the Jietai Temple (2014) are ethereal renderings of trees that exist in the artist’s mind and imagination following his meditative forays into the wilderness. Tai Xiangzhou, who employs 10th century paper-making techniques and uses Qianlong-era ink in his work, found inspiration for The No. 1 of Big Dipper (2014) in a rock he observed at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Master of the Water Pine and Stone Retreat, an artist deeply interested in the scholarly customs of the literati, complements his ink paintings with English texts and poems.
Meditations in Nature: New Ink offers a fresh perspective on a revered ancient practice by showcasing a group of talented and innovative contemporary artists extending the boundaries of the ink tradition.