Ink Media

ArtistCHEN Shaoxiong
Material/ Techniquevideo animation, Chinese ink on rice paper
Size/ Durationvideo: 3min. 45sec., drawing: 46×70cm each (set of 10)
Copyright Notice© Chen Shaoxiong
Year of acquisition/ donation2017
DescriptionBorn in Shantou, Guangdong, China in 1962. Died in Beijing in 2016.

Chen Shaoxiong launched his career as an artist after graduating from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1984, a time when attitudes to the reception of culture were changing dramatically in the wake of the Cultural Revolution in China. Accordingly, historical events involving politics, thought and culture have appeared noticeably as themes in Chen’s work. He participated in the Big Tail Elephant Group, an art collective that attached particular importance to conceptual art within the Chinese contemporary art scene from the 1990s onwards. Dealing with issues surrounding concepts and forms, he maintained an attitude of exploring what should be done through art. As well, his conviction that it is above all works with social meaning that impress on people the shift in priority from the group to the individual has had a considerable influence on later generations.

"Ink Media" comprises a video animation made from over 150 ink paintings Chen created based on images from the Internet of historical events occurring in the period 1909 to 2009 along with 10 of the original paintings. Taking into account the peculiar circumstances in China in which the state interferes in and restricts to an extreme degree the individual’s handling of information, this work uses the power of images that spread endlessly through reproduction to challenge the way we perceive and respond to world events. Chen’s method of converting the traditional technique of ink painting into a contemporary medium and remixing it is an expression of the trend in art towards encouraging international dialogue beyond the framework of the nation-state without losing history or culture fostered at the regional level. The brushwork in the paintings is powerful, giving the impression of works that are not simply copies of the original images but seem to breathe life into the cries and actions of the people in the video. The people wearing headphones suspended from the ceiling as they listen individually to the audio that accompanies the video almost look like a crowd gathered in a square for a demonstration.