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Jiuzhaigou Series No. 57: Under the Five Colour Lake

Jiuzhaigou Series No. 57: Under the Five Colour Lake
Scroll, mounted and framed
Ink and colour on paper
44.2 x 60 cm. (17 3/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2004
Hanart Gallery, Hong Kong
Private collection, Taiwan
Liu Kuo-sung: A Retrospective View, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong, 2005, p. 98
Singapore, the STPI Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Liu Kuo-sung: A Retrospective View, May 2005

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Lot Essay

For Liu Kuo-sung, the lines and textures created by the paintbrush have limited visual impact insufficient to render the nature world. Having long advocated that artists should ‘do away with the brush’, over the course of two decades, he has worked on innovative techniques to capture the everchanging and ethereal nature of water. In the 1970s, drawing inspiration from the washer the artist used to clean his paintbrushes, he began working on the water rubbing method that involves dipping the brush in ink washes and flicking it over the water. As the tension of the water causes the ink and colour to shift in position, the dynamic rippling and marbling effects are transferred onto a sheet of paper, then placed on top. Washes are subsequently applied to refine the texture of the pictorial details –beautifully mimicking mountains, bodies of water, clouds and snow –replete with rhythm, momentum and vitality.
Since revisiting Jiuzhaigou Valley in 2000, Liu Kuo-sung was deeply moved by the unrivalled beauty of the crystal-clear lakes. In his Steeped Ink series, Liu renders the surface of a body of water at different times of the year. Liu first applies ink and watercolour to moist tracing paper, non-absorbent by nature, before placing another sheet of tracing paper on top. He then sweeps the composition with a broad brush, leaving unpredictable horizontal patterns as the two sheets are separated from one another. Through variations of colour, paper thickness, and pressure of application, Liu’s Jiuzhaigou Series No. 57: Under the Fiver Colour Lake portrays the soothing grace of a lake in early spring, with subtle reflection of the foliage visible across the water. By conveying the diverse energy of water and the environment reflected upon it, Liu shifts this often-neglected element to the centrepiece of Chinese landscape painting, altering the relationship between mountain and water in this traditional genre, triggering an aesthetic revolution that continues to inspire.
Painters are travellers – they never stop exploring nature far and near. Chinese artists have long established a unique relationship with nature. Their landscape paintings seldom seek truthful representation but instead aspire to embody the spirit resonance of the landscape they see and experience. This attitude has enabled artists throughout the ages to innovate and the genre to evolve.
For over five decades Liu Kuo-sung has dedicated his career to discovering new technique and materials to portray nature. His visit to Tibet brought to him the inspiration to depict the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas. Having mastered his peeling technique with textured paper, the Tibetan Suite (Lot 841) series pushes the boundary of his earlier abstract paintings and challenges the norms of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Another major revolution is Liu’s dedication to paint water (Lot 842). Liu braved the unfamiliar subject matter with a novel rubbing technique and vibrant colours, giving his audience unlimited imagination to the beautiful lakes of Jiuzhaigou and the landscapes along the shore shown from the reflection of the water.
Hong Kong artists He Baili, Koon Wai Bong and Winnie Mak approach nature differently. Transforming the skills learned from the Lingnan School masters, He Baili uses brilliant colours in his sunrise paintings (Lot 843). The scenery he creates is his own utopia, a romanticised version of the world conjured from his memory and feelings. A Hong Kong ink art innovator, Koon Wai Bong reworks the classics by innovative spatial arrangement and novel presentation (Lot 848) . Koon’s works often portray landscape in a narrow or collaged view, presenting a restricted view from the window shared by many in the metropolis. Characterised by densely painted patterns of lines, trees and flowers, Winnie Mak (Lot 846) offers an alluring, almost impenetrable nature, which surprisingly conveys a sense of tranquillity.
Jia Youfu (Lots 844, 845) has repeatedly travelled into the Taihang Mountains and masterfully captures the awe-inspiring peaks with broad, rugged brushstrokes set against atmospheric skies. By starkly contrasting light and darkness, the breathtaking mountains under Jia’s brush often dwarf human existence and evoke contemplation on the relationship between man and nature. Chen Jialing (Lot 847) explores different ways to synthesise ancient Chinese mural painting and European watercolour, developing a distinctive style marked by his use of faded, light layers of ink and meticulous lines. An avid photographer, Chen experiments with ink and colour to capture the beauty of nature and the richness of its colours. Su Chung-ming’s landscapes are odes to nature, and for the artist, inspiration in art is derived from the awareness of nature and life (Lot 849). He believes that artists ought to rely on the observation and understanding of life to discover living sensory entities before internally transforming them into subjective emotions, which are expressed as unique forms and substance.

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