Dr Sophie McIntyre, curator, Ink Remix: Contemporary art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

The ability to be persistent and persevere when times get tough is the greatest asset that one can have in the arts ...

Unless you are seriously in the know when it comes to the latest trends in art, you might have missed the memo that ink art has been experiencing a massive boom in Asia. If you hadn’t heard the news, don’t fret – the best ink art being created by young artists is heading to Brisbane as part of Ink Remix: Contemporary art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong – a touring exhibition that boasts work from 14 artists from across Asia. This multilingual exhibition will also feature a range of media including painting, video, animation and ink jet prints. Ahead of the exhibition’s arrival at the Museum of Brisbane on Friday September 16, we spoke to curator Dr Sophie McIntyre about what we can expect from the assembled works.

Let’s start from the beginning – when did your love of art begin?
When I saw Mark Rothko’s Black on Maroon painting series for the first time at Tate Britain.

You have more than 20 years experience in the field of Chinese art, having curated a number of exhibitions living in Mainland China and Taiwan. What drew you to this region in particular?
I first went to China in 1986 when I was at art school in Brisbane. My parents were living in Yunnan province in southwest China – it was remote but culturally it was one of the most interesting and colourful places in China. I backpacked around China – it was a very different place in the 1980s. Artists were desperate to get their works out of China then because there was no domestic art market and few opportunities to show their work. After graduating in 1990, I went to Taiwan to study Chinese, and returned in the mid-1990s to do some research for a Masters degree. This research developed into an exhibition, called Face to Face: contemporary art from Taiwan which toured Australia in 1999. Although often overlooked, Taiwan is really interesting, historically and culturally, with a strong mix of Japanese, Western, Chinese and also indigenous influences. I was fascinated by the place, and ended up writing a PhD on Taiwan art – which is soon to become a book.

You’ll be heading to Museum of Brisbane for Ink Remix: Contemporary art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, which you have curated. Can you give our readers an idea of what they can expect from the exhibition?
The exhibition was curated as a touring show and it was intended to engage a broad audience, so I think everyone who goes will take something away from it. There are 14 artists represented in the show from across the region and their works span a diverse range of media, including video, animation, painting and textiles – and one artist even uses Coca-Cola in his work. Many people associate the word ‘ink’ in art with traditional Chinese ink painting. However, in this exhibition very few of the artists are actually using ink, and when they do it is not in a traditional manner that we might expect. I think the sheer diversity in media and style will surprise viewers. Many of the works are playful and also subversive, challenging traditions and conventions. Although the artists are drawing on some aspects of tradition, the works are very international and contemporary, with most of the works being produced over the past five years.

Yes, we heard a number of works in Ink Remix use unconventional media! What would you say is one of the most interesting uses of non-traditional media in the exhibition?
He Xiangyu, who is based in Berlin and Beijing, uses the essence of Coca-Cola in his landscape series. That’s pretty unconventional – and I’ve never seen an artist do that before. Another artist also from Beijing, Peng Wei, has been inspired by Chinese erotic art from the Ming dynasty, and she paints some of these images into the sole of a series of delicate silk slippers the artist has made. Yao Jui-chung from Taiwan uses biro and gold leaf in a work that measures more than five metres. Several other artists are different forms of digital media, including video, photography and animation.

Contemporary ink art has been named as ‘the new Chinese art’. How do these contemporary styles differ from traditional Chinese literati painting and calligraphy?
The fact most of these artists are not using ink, or brush on paper distinguishes them from their predecessors. Also, the issues these young artists are exploring have local as well as global relevance, such as environmental destruction, the role of the history, religion and also the media in our contemporary globalised societies, as well as gender issues – these are issues we can all relate to. There are some artists who use traditional motifs in their works, which are associated with Chinese literati painting, but they are using these in a contemporary context, and sometimes in a critical and also subversive manner.

What do you hope audiences to take away from Ink Remix?
Most people have been surprised by the sheer diversity and contemporary nature of the works. Some peoples’ perceptions of contemporary Chinese art, and particularly ink art, might be challenged. Many of the works are playful and even subversive – and there are others that are very contemplative.

As a Brisbane girl originally, what are you most looking forward to doing while in town?
Seeing friends and family – and the warmth! Canberra has had a cold winter. But most importantly, seeing Ink Remix installed at the Museum of Brisbane will be great. It’s a very versatile space and I’m working with a great team.

Do you have some words of wisdom that you can share for any budding artists or curators out there?
The ability to be persistent and persevere when times get tough (especially during government budget cuts!) – this is the greatest asset (along with being passionate about what you do) that one can have in the arts.

Ink Remix: Contemporary art from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong will be exhibited at the Museum of Brisbane from Friday September 16 to Sunday February 2017. Entry is free and the Museum will be open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, daily. 


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