Modern Ink-Wash Painting

(Xiandai shuimo)
Xiandai shuimo is also known as Chouxiang shuimo (Abstract Ink-Wash Painting) and Shiyan shuimo (Experimental Ink-Wash Painting) in the writings of different critics. It’s an artistic phenomenon that emerged in the mid 1990s when artists like Liu Zijian, Zhang Yu, Chen Tiejun, Wang Tiande and Wang Chuan, who had been trained in traditional Chinese painting (Guohua), turned to experimenting with abstract ink painting. Important events for this group of artists include: ‘Zhangli de shiyan: ‘94 Bianxian xing shuimohua zhan’ [An Experiment in Tension: An Exhibition of Expressive Ink Painting, 1994] and “95 Zhangli yü biaoxian: Xuimo zhan’ [Tension and Expression: An Exhibition of Ink-Wash Painting, 1995], both at the China Art Gallery (Zhonggou meishuguan); a symposium on contemporary Chinese ink painting held at Huanan Normal University in Guangzhou in 1996; and the publication of Trends in Modern Chinese Ink-Wash Painting at the End of the Twentieth Century volumes I, II and III (1993, 1994, 1996) and Experimental Ink-Wash Painting in China of the 1990s (1998).
The phenomenon of Modern Ink-Wash Painting appeared when art historians and critics, such as Lang Shaojun among others, were strongly advocating ‘brushwork as the central issue’ in Chinese painting at a time when young artists and critics were enthusiastic about contemporary Western art forms such as performance, installation and video art. Most of the Xiandai shuimo artists, however, reject the idea of brushwork as the fundamental element for their work and have absorbed, to a great extent, elements from modern Western art.
But in the meantime, they maintain many elements from traditional Chinese painting, therefore exploring an artistic space located between those of the traditionalists and their more radical contemporaries.
(1993, 1994, 1996). Ershishijimo Zhongguo xiandai shuimo yishu zoushi [Trends in Modern Chinese Ink-Wash Painting at the End of the Twentieth Century], vols 1–3. Tianjin: Yangliuqing chupanshe.
(1998). Experimental Ink Painting in China of the 1990s. Hong Kong: World Chinese Arts Publication Company.
Zhang, Yu and Zou, Jianping (eds) (1998). Zhongguo dangdai shuimohua [Contemporary Chinese Ink-Wash Painting]. Changsha: Hunan meishu chupanshe.
QIAN ZHIJIAN

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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