Asia Week to see Chinese ink art on display in NY

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Qiu Zhenzhong will display in New York his two series-Statues and Shan Hai Jing Prequel(above).

Two Chinese artists will soon present their experiments in ink at Asia Week in New York.

The traditional Chinese art is being given contemporary and fashionable touches by both elderly and young artists.

Calligrapher Qiu Zhenzhong and painter Shen Jinbo will show 32 pieces at the gallery of Contemporary Art and Editions, where the art show will be held over March 25-April 15. Titled Formation & Movement, the joint exhibition will focus on the beauty of ink paintings and the skills needed to make them.

Qiu, an established calligrapher in his 70s, will bring his two series-Statues and Shan Hai Jing Prequel, to the exhibition.

The first is made of paintings he did to portray the different stages of a lily flower in blossom and the second comprises abstract pieces he made with ink.

In Shan Hai Jing, an ancient Chinese compilation of myths, there are lots of beasts and monsters.

Qiu says in his abstract pieces, the movement of ink becomes something that makes him think of monsters created in myths. So he uses "Shan Hai Jing Prequel" to describe them. Each stroke in Qiu's work is clean and tight, very much like his calligraphy, which he has practiced since he was a teenager. He is a professor of calligraphy at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and has published many books on the subject. His long years of practicing calligraphy has helped him create abstract paintings that he says naturally form from his writing.

"Calligraphy is stereotyped as a very traditional art. I'm glad that I can transform it into contemporary art," says Qiu, who practices calligraphy almost daily.

Fellow artist Shen, 39, will also display two of his series-Pieces from the Seasons and World Series. The first follows a narrative style of ink and the second is abstract paintings.

Unlike Qiu's white-and-black canvases, Shen's works take on lots of hues. It's as a result of his training in oil painting when he was in college.

Speaking of his transition from oil to ink, Shen says the environment that he grew up in played a big role. He was born in Gushi, a town in Henan province, which is considered a cultural hub in the country.

Calligraphy and ink painting came naturally to him, he says, because people around him had all practiced this traditional art since his childhood.

But when he joined college, oil seemed to appeal more to him than ink art, so he learned it for four years, only to later get back to ink painting.

His training in oil painting has helped his ink art though, he says. "I use different colors."

Shen says he is still young and his artistic style is not fixed yet. His works that will go on show in New York seem to suggest that his painting style has changed from narrative to abstract. He says he is not sure where he will go with his ink painting, but one thing he is sure is that the experiments with ink will continue.

Compared with his counterparts, most of whom are oil painters, Shen says ink painters may "feel lonely" in the contemporary art world. He cites the example of a group show of contemporary artists, in which he was the only ink painter. But he is glad that his experiments are helping the traditional art survive.

Jonathan Goodman, an art critic from the United States, writes in the show's preface that both artists push the boundaries of their art and bring new possibilities alive.

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