Modern and Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting: Histories, Borders, and Values

April 20, 2022 – April 27, 2022
The Mozhai Foundation

1509-B Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA

Chen Ting-Shih, Hibernating 1, 1969, 120x180cm, Chen Ting Shih Modern Art Foundation

Chen Ting-Shih, Hibernating 1, 1969, 120x180cm, Chen Ting Shih Modern Art Foundation

Ink painting is arguably the most vibrant of China’s many national arts. Modern ink painting, from the early 20th century onwards, embodies the heroic story of constant renewal and reinvigoration of Chinese civilization through rebellions, revolutions, and reforms in the political and cultural arenas. More recently, ink painting in its multiplicity of forms, has become the face – both literally and figuratively – of contemporary China.

Rather than conceiving of Chinese ink painting merely as a medium, the aim of the symposium is to reconsider its historical, theoretical, cultural, social, and political dimensions. What are the ways in which contemporary Chinese ink painting embodies Chinese culture and society?  How have indigenous and foreign traditions impacted Chinese artists? What are the multiple contexts in which these artworks have been created and circulated? The purpose of this symposium is to ultimately help us take stock of the present state of Chinese ink painting, and to re-consider the multiplicities of contexts, histories, boundaries, and values that have combined to shape its current expression.

Join us for this two-day online international symposium and scholarly gathering organized by the Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland in partnership with The Mozhai Foundation and The Center for East Asian Studies, University of Maryland.

Agenda: The two-day symposium takes place online across different time zones. The symposium starts at 8:00pm EST in the US and ‘simultaneously’ at 8:00am in Taiwan and China the next day. If you are joining the symposium from another timezone please take account of the relevant time difference.

Wednesday April 20, 2022 (all times in EST)

8 PM: Welcome and Introduction |  Jason Kuo

8:10-30 PM: Landscape and Artistic Revolution: André Claudot (1892-1982) and the Modern Art Movement in China | Julia Andrews

As art historians rediscover and interpret the modern art of pre-1949 China, seeking to document the experiences of Chinese artists studying abroad has been of particular interest. Somewhat less attention has been focused on the impact of foreign artists who mentored students in the nation’s fledgling modern art institutions. This paper explores the role of the free-thinking French painter André Claudot (1892-1982), who spent four years teaching in China between 1926 and 1930, a period when China’s art world arguably reached the peak of its twentieth century cosmopolitan ambitions. Claudot, a veteran of Montparnasse who painted exuberant canvases in a fauvist manner, left a demonstrable legacy in the work of his oil painting students in Beijing and Hangzhou. The equally interesting artistic exchanges among Claudot and Chinese ink painters, including Lin Fengmian, Qi Baishi, and Li Keran, will serve as the primary theme of this paper.

8:30-50 PM: Forging Ink Modernities: The Rediscovery of Shitao in China and Japan | Yanfei Zhu

Shitao (1642–1707) was widely admired and studied in the guohua (National Painting) and shinnanga (New Southern Painting) movements that began respectively in Republican China and Taishō Japan in the 1910s. The popularity of this seventeenth century artist and his unorthodox paintings was entangled with a proliferation of contemporary counterfeits of his work and the changing power dynamics in Sino-Japanese relations. This paper analyzes and compares how artists and critics in the two countries appropriated and (mis)interpreted Shitao and his art in the 1920s and 30s as they navigated the issues of national identity, cultural aesthetics, avant-garde styles, etc.

8:50-9:10 PM: Qi Baishi and Noguchi: Six Months in Beijing | Britta Erickson

In 1930, the paths of two of the twentieth century’s greatest artists briefly intersected, subtly influencing the direction of the younger one’s oeuvre. Qi Baishi (1864–1957), one of China’s most famous painters of the past century, took the great Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) as his ink-painting student for six months. Just as sculpting in stone is a creative method that permits no turning back, so, too, is ink painting. A mark once made cannot be withdrawn. Noguchi embraced this corollary of ink painting, confidently capturing forms in space through brush gesture. The understanding of the relationship between forms and space is a crucial element in ink painting, where the paper that is left blank plays an active role in the composition. This relationship is also at the core of much of Noguchi’s later sculpture.

9:10-20 PM: Break

9:20-40 PM: The Only Way to Paint Real Pictures: Contemporary Chinese Painting in 1940s New York City | Joseph Scheier-Dolberg

Between 1943 and 1948, The Metropolitan Museum of Art organized three exhibitions of contemporary Chinese painting. Though little remembered today, these were among the first attempts in the twentieth-century United States to grapple with contemporary art from China, a fact that alone makes them worthy of examination. Adding to their interest is the historical backdrop, World War II and its immediate aftermath, which saw a continuing struggle to define modern China through art, ideology, and politics. A roster of key figures in these exhibitions—Wellington Koo, Hu Shih, Lin Yutang—reveals that the stakes of such exhibitions were apparent to the highest echelons of Chinese society and its diaspora. Through an exploration of the art historical and political dimensions of these three exhibitions, this essay aims to add an important lost episode from the history of contemporary Chinese art in the United States.

9:40-10:00 PM: Two Female Ink Modernizers in Colonial Hong Kong: Fang Zhaoling and Irene Chou | Aida Yuen Wong

This paper examines the trajectories of two women artists who blazed their own paths in colonial Hong Kong: Fang Zhaoling (1914-2006) and Irene Chou (1924-2011). Both emerged from the shadow of male mentors, Chang Da-chien (1899-1983) and Lui Shou-kwan (1919-1975) respectively, and developed individualistic compositions in ink and color. Fang experimented with dramatic perspectives and created deliberately naïve figures that embody “zhuo,” or clumsiness, an aesthetic that is not traditionally associated with the feminine ideal in classical China. Her striking representations of the plight of the Vietnamese boat people speak to her empathy for displaced people, a subject rarely treated in ink painting. Chou turns more toward her inner world, developing biomorphic abstractions that have immense visual power. Similarly for her paintings of women, Chou’s most striking compositions often incorporate an intense blackness that captures melancholy and anxiety. Under-examined outside of Hong Kong, these two artists exemplify the immense freedom in ink painting during the late twentieth century, and invite discussions on the role of Hong Kong in this development. 

10:00-10:30: Discussion and Q & A

Wednesday April 27, 2022 (all times in EST)

8 PM: Welcome and Introduction | Jason Kuo

8:10-30 PM: Louis Chan and His Hong Kong Kaleidoscope | Kuiyi Shen

This paper will examine Luis Chan (Chen Fushan; 1905 – 1995), a Hong Kong artist renowned for his unique artistic vision. It was he who had the most profound contemporary consciousness among Hong Kong artists at the time. Over the course of his career he worked in various different realms of painting and also devoted himself to writing art criticism, translations, introductions to contemporary art, as well as to promoting the development of Hong Kong art. He had great achievements in oil painting, watercolor, collage, and acrylic, especially in his later years, when he used ink and color to express his fantasy world. Crossing the boundaries of medium, he brought forth images characterized by their absurdity and humor to reflect on the remarkably diverse phenomena one might associate with Hong Kong in the second half of the twentieth century, and thus created his unique personal painting vocabulary and style.

8:30-50 PM: Huang Yao (1917-1987): A Sinophone Ink Painter in Malaysia | Nan Zhong

Active as a cartoon artist (manhua) in Shanghai in the 1930s, Huang Yao settled in Malaysia in the 1950s when he took up ink painting and calligraphy, and remained active in the artistic and cultural circles until his death in 1987. His extensive works in ink were rediscovered only after his death. This paper will examine the stylistic innovation of his works in the contexts of the cultural politics of the Chinese diaspora in the 1950s-1980s.

8:50-9:10 PM: Crossing the Pacific Twice: Zen in 1950s-60s Taiwan Abstract Painting | Kuo-Sheng Lai

Zen was an important element often encompassed in the art of abstract expressionism in 1940s-50s New York. When the art came into vogue in the world, a group of artists in Taiwan also explored this then avant-garde art of abstraction in the 1950s-60s. They were well aware of the expression of Zen in the works of their American counterparts, and did not hesitate to feature in their works this trait that originated in the East. Despite the fact that the art was from New York, it inspired Taiwan’s abstract painters, and thus Zen in the works of artists in Taiwan had multi-layered meanings. This paper explores the complex history of the spread of Zen and Zen art from Asia to America, and how artists in Taiwan adopted this art of both the East and the West.

9:10-20 PM: Break

9:20-40 PM: Communicating the Spirit of Ink: on the Curation and Reception of Ink Dreams: Selections from the Fondation INK Collection | Susanna Ferrell

Beyond the finite components of ink on paper or silk, there is a spirit of ink that transcends time and media. Beginning with intuitive aesthetic connections, the Fondation INK Collection expands the genre of “ink art” from works of or about ink to include contemporary photography, oil, acrylic, installation, and sculpture that are aesthetically or conceptually linked to the ink art lineage. This paper discusses a broadened, abstracted re-conceptualization of the genre of “ink art,” extending from East Asia to the global contemporary art world, presented in the exhibition Ink Dreams at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, 2021), and the necessary considerations in communicating this concept to the general museum-going public.

9:40-10:00 PM: Disappearing Ink: Transmediality and the Imaginaries of Ink Painting | Richard Vinograd

A “material turn” in art practice and discourse has gained prominence in contemporary Chinese ink painting, with a foregrounding of the substance, properties, and processes of ink in ways sometimes signaled by a terminological and conceptual shift to ink art. A countervailing tendency, no less prominent, involves a proliferation of media modalities and substitutions aimed at achieving ink painting effects and appearances, including photographic and digital images, light and shadow projections, oil painting, and AI-controlled image production, among other forms. Beyond the considerable intrinsic interest of such diverse transmedial operations, these practices provoke interrogations of a fundamental nature, since many do not involve ink, or painting, and may be only partially or problematically Chinese. This paper will briefly explore the imaginaries of ink painting that undergird and guide such practices that may illuminate not only the present situation of the genre but also its historical natures.

10:00-10:30: Discussion and Q & A

About our Convener

▪️ Jason Kuo, Professor of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland

Jason C. Kuo is Professor of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park. He was educated at the National Palace Museum and the University of Michigan and has taught at Williams College and Yale University. He was a Fellow at the Freer Gallery, a Research Associate at the University Art Museum (UC Berkeley), a Stoddard Fellow at the Detroit Institute of Arts, a Research Associate at the Fairbank Center (Harvard University), and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has received grants from the J. D. Rockefeller III Fund, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Henry Luce Foundation. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Taipei in 2001–2. His books include Wang Yuanqi de shanshuihua yishu (1981), The Austere Landscape: The Paintings of Hung-jen (1992), Art and Cultural Politics in Postwar Taiwan (2000), Transforming Traditions in Modern Chinese Painting: Huang Pin-hung’s Late Work (2004), Chinese Ink Painting Now (2010), The Inner Landscape: The Paintings of Gao Xingjian (2013), and The Poet’s Brush: Chinese Ink Paintings by Lo Ch’ing (2016). His exhibition catalogs Word as Image: The Art of Chinese Seal Engraving (1992), and Lo Ch’ing: A Contemporary Chinese Poet-Painter (2018). His edited books include Visual Culture in Shanghai: 1950s-1930s (2007), Perspectives on Connoisseurship of Chinese Painting (2008), Stones from Other Mountains: Chinese Painting Studies in Postwar America (2009), Zhongguo yishu zhi tezhi (2012), Contemporary Chinese Art and Film: Theory Applied and Resisted (2013), Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Studies in Postwar America: New Perspectives (2020). He currently serves on the International Advisory Board of the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and the Editorial Board of the book series Philosophy of Filmpublished by Brill (Leiden).

About our Speakers

▪️ Julia Andrews, The Ohio State University

Julia F. Andrews is Distinguished University Professor at Ohio State University. Her first book, Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1979 (1994), won the Joseph Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies for the best book of the year on modern China. A subsequent book, co-authored with Kuiyi Shen, Art of Modern China (University of California Press, 2012), won the 2013 ICAS (International Convention of Asia Scholars) Book Prize in the Humanities. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2016-2017. Among exhibitions she has curated are one of the first American exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art, Fragmented Memory: The Chinese Avant-Garde in Exile, at OSU’s Wexner Center for the Arts in 1993; the Guggenheim Museum’s ground-breaking 1998 exhibition, A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth Century China, shown in New York and Bilbao; Blooming in the Shadows at China Institute in New York in 2011; and, at Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Light Before Dawn in 2013 and the Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling (1914-2006) in 2017.

▪️ Britta Erickson, Artistic Director, Ink Studio

Britta Erickson is an independent scholar and curator. Her Stanford University doctoral dissertation investigates patronage modes in the career of the mid-nineteenth-century Shanghai School master, Ren Xiong. Erickson has taught at major universities, including Stanford and U.C. Berkeley, and publishes and lectures widely. Among the important exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art that she has curated are the Sackler Gallery’s first major solo show for a living artist, Word Play: Contemporary Art by Xu Bing, and Reboot: The Third Chengdu Biennial (2007, co-curator). Erickson was a Fulbright Fellow in 2006, and has been on numerous advisory boards, including Yishu, ART Asia Pacific, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, TimeZone8, Asia Art Archive, and the Ink Society. Erickson now serves as editor for the Modern Ink series (Mozhai Foundation), and is Artistic Director of INK Studio, a Beijing gallery she co-founded, devoted to contemporary ink artists, where she has curated a score of exhibitions. Her other major recent project is the production of a film series, The Enduring Passion for Ink: A Project on Contemporary Ink Painters.

▪️ Susanna Ferrell, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Susanna Ferrell is the Wynn Resorts Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with a specialty in contemporary Chinese art. Since joining LACMA, she has curated Ink Dreams: Selections from the Fondation INK Collection (2021) and Legacies of Exchange: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Yuz Fondation (2021), and co-curated Allure of Matter: Material Art from China (2019) and The Abode of Illusions: The Garden of Zhang Daqian (2020, Yuz Museum, Shanghai). Susanna holds an MA in the History of Fine Art from The Courtauld Institute with a focus on Chinese contemporary art, and a BA in Art History and Fine Art from Scripps College.

▪️ Kuo-Sheng Lai, The National Palace Museum, Taipei

Kuo-Sheng Lai is an art historian and museum professional. He works at the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum (Taiwan) as an assistant curator and teaches Asian Art and Museology at the National Chung Cheng University. In the museum, he designs various programs to help different audiences experience museum content. In class, he not only conveys knowledge but also urges students to build up career paths. His research focuses on inter-cultural artistic exchanges in Asia or between Asia and the West.

▪️ Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Joseph Scheier-Dolberg is the Oscar Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang Associate Curator of Chinese Painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his time at the Met, Scheier-Dolberg has reinstalled the galleries for Chinese painting more than ten times, presenting installations on diverse topics including calligraphy, landscape painting, and the album format. His doctoral dissertation focused on the early Qing painter, Yu Zhiding (ca. 1646–ca. 1716). Scheier-Dolberg’s current exhibition, which examines the twin themes of reclusion and communion in premodern Chinese art, will be open through August, 2022.

▪️ Kuiyi Shen, University of California, San Diego

Kuiyi Shen is Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism of the Visual Arts Department at University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on modern and contemporary Asian art. Among his publications are A Century in Crisis: Tradition and Modernity in the Art of Twentieth Century China (1998); Chinese Posters (2009); Arts of Modern China (2012, winner of the 2103 ICAS Book Prize in Humanities), Light Before Dawn: Unofficial Chinese Art 1974-1985 (2013), Painting Her Way: The Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling (2017), and Luis Chan (2019). He also maintains an active career as a curator. The best known of the exhibitions he has curated are A Century in Crisis: Tradition and Modernity in the Art of Twentieth Century China (1998), Reboot: The Third Chengdu Biennial (2007), Why Not Ink (2012), Light Before Dawn (2013), and Luis Chan (2019). He is a recipient of fellowships and awards from National Endowment of Art, Social Science Research Council, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Ishibashi Foundation, Stanford University, Leiden University, University of California, University of Heidelberg, and others. He is also the managing editor of Brill’s book series Modern Asian Art and Visual Culture.

▪️ Richard Vinograd, Stanford University

Richard Vinograd is the Christensen Fund Professor in Asian Art in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. He held the Shimada Prize Lectureship in Asian Art, and presented the Sir Percival David Lecture at the British Museum. He is the author of Boundaries of the Self: Chinese Portraits, 1600-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1992) and co-author of Chinese Art & Culture (Prentice Hall and Harry N. Abrams, 2001) and Ink Worlds: Contemporary Chinese Paintings from the Collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang(Stanford University Press, 2018). Facing China: Truth and Memory in Portraiture is forthcoming from Reaktion Books in 2022.

▪️ Aida Yuen Wong, Brandeis University

Aida Yuen Wong is the Nathan Cummings and Robert B. and Beatrice C. Mayer Professor in Fine Arts, Brandeis University, U.S.A. She is a scholar of Asian art history who has written extensively on transcultural modernism. Among her major publications are Parting the Mists: Discovering Japan and the Rise of National-Style Painting in Modern China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2006) (Chinese Translation from Taipei: Rock Publishing, 2019) and the edited volume Visualizing Beauty: Gender and Ideology in Modern East Asia (Hong Kong University Press, 2012). Wong is the author of the chapter on Chinese modernism in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, 2nd ed. (2014). Another book, The Other Kang Youwei: Calligrapher, Art Activist, and Aesthetic Reformer in Modern China (Brill, 2016), explores the art theory and legacy of the late Qing-early Republican reformer whose paradigmatic thinking about painting and calligraphy cast a long shadow on modern/contemporary Chinese art discourses. Wong is the co-editor of the volume Fashion, Identity, and Power in Modern Asia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), which deals with dress reforms in China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. In addition, Wong has begun research on 20th-century ink painting in Taiwan that intersects with gouache and oil painting. Her areas of interest include painting, calligraphy, institutional history, and historiography.

▪️ Nan Zhong, University of Maryland

Nan Zhong is a Ph.D. student and Flagship Fellow in Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland. He received his B.A. in Journalism and Chinese literature from Jilin University, China; M.A. in Art History and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and M.A. in East Asian Languages and Civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020. His research focuses on the modernization of Chinese art, the transition of Chinese literati traditions in ink art, and antiquarianism during the late imperial time to the Republican period.

▪️ Yanfei Zhu, University of North Georgia

Yanfei Zhu is Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of North Georgia, Dahlonega. His research interests lie primarily in the fields of modern Chinese art, print culture, historiography, and comparative studies. His writings have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes, and encyclopedias. He obtained his BA in museum studies from Fudan University and MA and PhD in Chinese art history from the Ohio State University.