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April 16, 2011

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Ink-wash art gets new meanings with manga

TRADITIONAL ink-wash painting contains a spiritual element, and brush strokes are said to use and evoke qi or energy flow. But an artist's personal cultivation is required and perfection takes years to accomplish.

Many young artists are skilled in ink-wash painting, but some are impatient and eager to innovate the ancient genre.

The exhibition "Find" features fresh and intriguing ink-wash works by graduates from the art school of East China Normal University. Their work uses traditional techniques to achieve unusual results.

The show also marks the 60th anniversary of the university.

"Frankly, few students pick up traditional ink-wash painting with a real love for it - they learn it either by accident or because of the college entrance examination," says Wu Yanyin, an organizer of the exhibition. "But these young artists are not wedded to tradition," he says.

Classical (and often stereotypical) landscapes of mountains and rivers, flowers and birds, rocks and pavilions are nowhere to be seen in this exhibition. Instead, the subjects are urban life.

For example, Zhu Ziqi's "Encounter" features cute naive-looking girl standing beside obviously artificial rocks or a pond - it's done in Japanese manga style.

"I've learnt traditional ink-wash painting at an early age, and I copied lots of masterpieces to accumulate the kind of qi in my brushwork," says Zhu.

"But the more I practiced, the more I felt puzzled. I found that I could no longer surpass what the ancient masters had achieved on rice paper," he says, adding that he felt a bit bored to paint the cliched scenes as "I am living in a big cosmopolitan in modern times."

Naturally Zhu embarks on a different path of ink and wash, emphasizing on what he is keen about.

"I prefer those Japanese artists, writers and musicians," says Zhu. "And I like the kind of art that conveys multiple meanings."

His words are echoed with Ji Jinjin, another participating young artist.

"The French say that every exciting journey is not on the road, but in the heart and soul," Ji points out. "This is very similar to painting. A good piece of art is a monologue of the heart."

Ji tries to reflect the urban scene under her brush strokes.

"For a long time in the past, I only recognized those ancient paintings with superb skills. I hardly thought what I wanted to paint," she continues. "But a class discussion enlightened me and made me realize how critical it was to listen to the real voice inside myself.

"I am enamored by this city, its history and stories. It is such a chaotic world, but just imagine if you are standing on the roof of all the high-rises, what a peaceful world!"

Ji captures the particular experience on her rice paper where the urban life appears a bit surrealistic if overlooking from the sky. Sometimes, she infuses her humor through a parachute or UFO in the air to strengthen her detachment to the hustle and bustle of the reality.

Date: through April 30, 10am-4pm

Venue: Mingyuan Art Center, 1199 Fuxing Rd

Tel: 6473-8383


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