Asian Art Piers is pleased to present “Contemplative Ink” featuring ink and mixed media works by four multidisciplinary artists Beili Liu, Li Sa, Sook Jin Jo and Ruth Hardinger. The exhibition engages with the diversity of ink and ink-inspired mediums and the complexity of the contemporary ink painting practice, and rediscovers ink and mixed media works through the lenses of both East Asian and western aesthetic traditions.
Beili Liu’s Wind Drawing: Array is one of her most daring and exciting contemporary ink work of late. Using an air compressor, the artist carefully and strategically pushes ink and water to glide along a coated surface. The drawings capture the sweeping movement of the air current while the ink drifts and disburses in response to the force of the air, imprinting fleeting moments of contact between the air and the surface. Though stylistically different, Liu’s technical approach recalls that of Yves Klein’s in Anthropométrie series and both artists share a fascination with transient energy and achieving synthesis between the material and the immaterial.
Another highlight of the exhibition is Li Sa’s Composition with Rocks No.9, sextych, which consists of six vertical ink and mixed media paintings, measuring 98 in. in height and totaling 19.5 ft. in width. In No.9 and his most recent series, Li employs 14 different mediums such as ink, enamel, mineral, vegetable color, copper, gold and silver leaves and acrylic paint, all of which lend a unique grainy texture to the work on linen.
Li’s works broadens the definition of abstract art as he deconstructs the compositional structures from the canon of Chinese classical ink painting, reconfigures the fragments with contemporary visual elements. In No.9, bicycles saddles, handlebars and male genitalia morphing into the organic forms of lotuses and morning glory flowers, intertwined stem-like vertical lines zigzagging across the pictorial space, Chinese scholar’s rocks with sharp edges descending from the top of the canvas, precariously angling or collapsing towards the border between panels, all results in a deliberately simple yet dramatically disorienting composition, which is most likely an homage to Ming master painter Bada Shanren, one of artist’s major influences. If viewing in the western perspective, the flattened images, bold spontaneous lines and angular geometric forms floating in No. 9 seem to have certain linkage to the Suprematists such as Kandinsky and Malevich yet the compositional formats remain distinctly and deceptively Chinese. In the artist’s own words, “Chinese traditional culture values qualities such as calmness, eternity, balance, stability and serenity… At the same time, I want to create something different in my abstract works by incorporating more elements, even seemingly ominous and unsettling images from modern experiences, such as fear, death, impulsivity, desire, conflict and contradiction…”
Initially trained as a painter, Sook Jin Jo is an extraordinary artist mostly known for her majestic wood and mixed media installations. The three drawings on view are among the artist’s very few post-installation renderings of her three signature works All Things Are Born of Being III, Construction in Progress, and Space Between, which have been repeatedly restaged over the years at a number of institutional spaces and prestigious indoor and outdoor venues. Executed on vintage paper used for padding an old Korean mansion’s floors, the drawings seem to channel and translate the meditative energy from the original public installations to a more intimate private spatial experience. Yet the drawings retain the same level of visual intensity and emotional complexity, which are characterized by the forceful gestural lines, very minimalist but expressive color palette and the calligraphic brushstrokes emulating those of traditional ink painters. Mixing graphite with oil to create her new “ink” medium, Jo is able to achieve the same level of fluidity, liveliness and simplicity in the composition that would have been expected if using “ink”.
Ruth Hardinger’s Envelopes dovetail between the fantastic and organic, suggesting landscape in some otherworldly location - yet clearly occupying abstraction. Broken and fractured surfaces coincide with mottled, subtlety-dusted passages as each piece evolved during its making. Hardinger says “To embrace, to engulf, to envelop – the words became important concepts for what these works contain, and led me to the title ‘Envelope’.”
Upon looking at these works, certain masterpieces by the renowned Chinese ink painter Gao Xingjian come to mind. The two artists’ works possess both abstract and representational visual elements that comprise compositions created from contemplation and inner emotions rather than observations of the external world.
Yet Hardinger’s use of graphite and layers of different textured hand-made paper makes the uncanny visual resemblance all the more intriguing as the real contours, the wrinkled and cratered surface of the graphite areas and the tonal gradation from the very light grey to black add to both the physical and emotional depth of the work.