Friday, 18 August 2017

Beyond the brush: Abstract ink paintings since 1960

An exhibition of work by artists of the Fifth Moon group, a new wave that reinvented Taiwanese artistic expression

Written by Sandra Smith
When a number of artists, weary of the conservatism pervading Taiwan’s annual Provincial Fine Arts Exhibition, organised their own exposition, they began a movement intent on reinventing the representation of their heritage. The result? A fusion of East and West which culminated in reshaping the world’s attitude to art.Sandra-Smith-colour-176

The Fifth Moon Group became the forerunner of the modern art movement in Taiwan during the 1960s in which leading members characterised a new wave of modernism. While appreciating and critiquing each other’s work they drew on all manner of influences to create a unique style. Artists no longer limited their approach or medium, instead mixing collage, ink, oils and acrylics; tradition, neither overlooked nor abandoned, soon coexisted alongside experimentalism.

Beyond the Brush, the Ashmolean’s latest exhibition and drawn from its own archives, once again reveals its dedication to honouring the evolution of art. In every image a sense of presence complements artists’ emotions. At the same time the viewer is the final link in these compositions which reveal varying degrees of abstract expressionism.

Startling as being the only circular painting, the exhibition opens with Fong Chung-Ray’s abstraction in which textured layers and colour gradation combine to give depth and mood with bold brush strokes.

To reinforce divergent styles, there are two Peach Blossom spring paintings by Lu Wu-Chiu, a celebrated embroiderer. The first ink image is as delicate as the second is strong and brash, the ingénue and the dominant side by side. Meanwhile, Liu Kuo-Sung’s scroll of which a metre is on show, depicts a panoramic landscape in which the artist and group’s founder member uses white space to represent waterfalls and running streams with folded paper marks adding texture.

Other techniques include pressing inked fibre-board over loosely coiled string in Chen Ting-Shih’s abstraction. The intriguing swirled relief contrasts with a solid ink background. Of similar visual impact is abstract landscape by Liu Kuo-Sung. Although the artist has abandoned oil and canvas for ink and paper, this mesmerising scene, mounted on silk fabric, oozes calligraphy- inspired lines and generous brush strokes in a work of pictorial and emotional integrity. From collages of geometric shapes born out of origins on plastic, to colourful works by Chu Ko, a poet, art critic and sculptor as well as a painter, whose convoluted shapes suggest perpetual rhythm, this exhibition highlights the significance of change and collaboration.

The Fifth Moon group created works of distinction that became a major source of artistic expression.

Until 28 August at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford: 01865-278002; 

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