A gallery wall with two artworks hanging on it. One artwork is a landscape ink painting and the other is a hanging scroll with ink landscape on it.

Ask an M+ Curator About Ink Art: Your Questions Answered #2

Throughout the exhibition The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+, M+ is opening up for questions! Curious visitors can go here to ask Lesley Ma, Curator, Ink Art at M+, anything about ink art and the works in the exhibition. Answers will then be posted right here on M+ Stories. You can see the first round of answers here.

Below, a quick round of three answers, covering the topics of paper conservation, Taiwanese art history, and sparkly paint:

‘How do conservators work with the thin paper that's often used with ink? It seems like it would just crumble when you touch it!’

This question was passed on to Jo-Fan Huang, Paper Conservator at M+:

Jo-Fan: Thank you for asking this question! Asian paper has amazing physical properties. Xuan paper, for example, is soft, absorbent, and quite ‘strong’. Conservators also usually handle paper with additional support. If the work is flat, we use a backing board. If the work is rolled, we use a tube with a large diameter for inner support. The housing materials are all acid-free, dye-free, and lignin-free. The use of additional support minimises the handling, so the paper can be free of dents, creases, grime, and abrasions caused by handling.

Ink and colour painting on paper of a thick dark line painted in angular strokes against a light background. Another, less angular and defined dark shape sits in the top right corner. The dark brushstrokes are broken up by thin, feathery lines running through them that let the background shine through.

Liu Kuo-Sung (Taiwanese, born China, 1932), Clear Conclusion of Clearness, 1965, ink and colour on paper. M+, Hong Kong. © Liu Kuo-sung

‘There are a few references to the Fifth Moon Society throughout the exhibition. What exactly is the Fifth Moon Society and what is its historical significance?’

Lesley: The Fifth Moon Society was a modernist art group in Taiwan, and one of the earliest modern art groups in East Asia. It was founded in 1956 by the alumni of the Department of Fine Arts of the National Taiwan Normal University (then known as the Taiwan Provincial University of Education) in Taipei, Taiwan’s most prestigious art programme at the time. The artists exhibited annually from 1957 to 1972, establishing their name as one of the two leading modernist art groups in Taiwan. (The other Taiwanese modernist group is the Ton Fan Society, also established in 1956, whose members Hsiao Chin and Li Yuan-chia are both featured in the current exhibition.) The artists of Fifth Moon Society sought to modernise Chinese painting through abstraction, mining ideas from Chinese tradition yet abandoning orthodox ways of making landscape paintings. They developed new techniques, often inspired by Western methods of artmaking—such as using collage and playing with the material—and made works that could capture their experiences as a displaced generation, moving from mainland China to Taiwan as a consequence of war. As they tried to define the artistic voice of their generation, they sought to participate in the international conversation, where abstraction had been the dominant postwar artistic style.

Oil, ink, and acrylic painting with paper collage on canvas of shapes in brown, blue, orange, yellow, and pink. The shapes are angular and surrounded by thick black lines, except for a vertical light brown shape in the background and gray blotches surrounding it.

Chuang Che (American, born China, 1934), Moon Eater, 1967, oil, ink, acrylic, and paper collage on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. © Chuang Che

In this exhibition, we included paintings from the 1960s by Liu Kuo-sung and Chuang Che, the two key figures of the Fifth Moon Society. They were produced during the most important decade of their early career, in the styles that cemented their reputation and changed the course of Chinese painting. Fong Chung-Ray, another artist in the group who was mostly self-taught, is represented by his more recent work, from 2014, as he continued to work with the ink aesthetic using collage and acrylic. Through this exhibition, you can see how the Fifth Moon artists’ works could be in conversation with works by Hong Kong, Japanese, Korean artists working around the same time, who all contributed to the discourse of post war abstract painting from an Asian perspective.

Acrylic painting with paper collage on canvas of Chinese characters written in white across a patchwork of brown, bronze, and gold colours. In many places the characters are obscured by paint and paper collage.

Fong Chung-Ray (American, born China, 1934), 14-17, 2014, acrylic and paper collage on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. © Fong Chung-Ray

‘What makes Peng Wei's hanging scroll shimmer and glitter?’

Lesley: Peng Wei added sparkly powder into her colours during this period.

Video panning down a hanging scroll with ink and colour showing a river flowing downwards through a landscape of rocks, hills, and trees, and people.

Peng Wei (Chinese, born 1974), Between Clouds And Water (雲水隔) (detail), 2013, ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll. M+, Hong Kong. © Peng Wei / 彭薇

The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+ runs until January 14 2018 at the M+ Pavilion. You can
submit your question for Lesley here.


Image at top of post: Mustard Seed Garden III by Yang Jiechang, 2010, M+, Hong Kong, © Yang Jiechang and Between Clouds And Water (雲水隔) by Peng Wei, 2013, M+, Hong Kong, © Peng Wei / 彭薇 on display at ‘The Weight of Lightness’ 2017

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