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'Between Clouds And Water' by Peng Wei
'Between Clouds And Water' by Peng Wei

Lesley Ma, Curator, Ink Art at M+, answers the second set of questions from visitors about The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+.

Throughout the exhibition The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+, M+ is open for questions. Curious visitors have been asking Lesley Ma about ink art and the works in the exhibition. Below, we provide 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 Huang: 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. 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 Ma: 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. 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.

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. 14-17, 2014. Acrylic and paper collage on canvas. M+, Hong Kong. © Fong Chung-Ray

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.

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

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

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

This article was originally published on M+ Stories to coincide with The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+.

Lesley Ma
Lesley Ma
Lesley Ma

Lesley Ma is currently the Ming Chu Hsu and Daniel Xu Associate Curator of Asian Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met. She was formerly the Curator of Ink Art at M+.

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