Chinese Ink Art Reinvigorated Through Experimentation By Artist Liu Kuo-Sung

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National Gallery Singapore stages Singapore’s largest retrospective on the artist in a public museum, spotlighting key periods of his groundbreaking artistic practice across 70 years

SINGAPORE – Media OutReach – 11 January 2023 – A pioneering figure in modern Chinese ink practices around the world; an artist who went beyond conventional painting techniques to push boundaries in textures and materials. Liu Kuo-sung is a world-renowned modern ink master who reconstructed traditions with modernity to create unique ink paintings and transformed the art practice.

Liu Kuo-sung at Liu Kuo-sung: Experimentation as Method, National Gallery Singapore 2022. Image credit: Joseph Nair, Memphis West Pictures

His spirit of experimentation extends beyond just brush painting techniques – he explored the use of materials to create textural effects in his paintings for enhanced visual impact. This led to the development of a new material – Liu Kuo-sung Paper. His leading role in the modernisation of the art form elevated Liu onto the global stage, where he extensively exhibited across the world in Asia, Europe and America.

Liu Kuo-sung: Experimentation as Method presents over 60 breathtaking ink works and 150 archival materials from Liu’s personal collection, which trace his breakthrough artistic practice across seven decades. This exhibition features works generously donated to the Gallery from Liu, with future additional donations being explored.

Liu’s donation expands and elevates the Gallery’s collection of ink paintings, which includes works by Singaporean ink artists, as well as Chinese ink master Wu Guanzhong. Through this collection, the Gallery has continuously made efforts to deepen the art historical understanding of ink art, as the perspectives of Singapore and Southeast Asia provide a uniquely rich vantage point to examine the regional and global transformation of the ink practice. The Gallery’s spotlight and research on Liu Kuo-sung’s innovations in ink will further the mission to examine the lesser known narratives from the global history of modern ink, advancing the museum’s position as a leading institution for modern ink art in the region.

Dr Eugene Tan, Director, National Gallery Singapore, says, “Liu’s groundbreaking approaches through his painting techniques and use of materials advance new perspectives on the traditional medium. His works showcase the exceptional results of his innovative artistic spirit. National Gallery Singapore is honoured to receive the generous donation of artworks from Liu Kuo-sung and recognition for the Gallery’s efforts in growing awareness and appreciation of Chinese ink. We believe that the depth and breadth of our collections of Chinese ink will appeal to a global audience and support our intention to create dialogue between the art of Singapore, Southeast Asia and the world.”

Lin-Hwei Lee from The Liu Kuo-sung Foundation says, “Over the years, we have seen National Gallery Singapore’s reputable efforts to raise awareness and foster deeper appreciation for Chinese ink. We hope that this donation enables the Gallery to further expand its exhibitions and programmes on Chinese ink to showcase the diversity and beauty of Chinese ink practice for its visitors.”

Experimentation as a method to traditional Chinese ink practice: Exhibition highlights
The exhibition traces notable and distinct periods in his career with a selection of artworks and archival materials, providing visitors with an extended reading of his art that places his works in broader historical contexts and highlight the relevance and significance of his innovations.

Installation view, Liu Kuo-sung: Experimentation as Method. National Gallery Singapore 2022. Image credit: Joseph Nair, Memphis West Pictures

In these large-scale series, Liu continued to experiment with the use of materials, such as architecture paper, as seen in the artwork In the Midst of a Beautiful Spring (2008). The less absorbent material enabled Liu to push the boundaries of his steeped-ink technique. The culmination of the novel art-making techniques that Liu developed and refined over time, coupled with his return to a semi-abstract approach to Chinese ink are fervently showcased through these evocative masterpieces created in the later part of his career.

Exhibition tours, activities and dining

Visitors can look forward to docent-led tours, activities for the family and children to learn more about ink paintings, a multi-programme response to the exhibition by Siong Leng Musical Association as well as a special dish at The Great Mischief inspired by one of Liu Kuo-sung’s artworks. Talks and panel discussions will also engage audiences in the artistic practices of the master artist.

More information on the exhibition and accompanying programmes may be found at www.nationalgallery.sg/experimentation-as-method. Media assets are available here.

Liu Kuo-sung: Experimentation as Method will run from 13 January to 26 November 2023 at National Gallery Singapore, Level 4 Gallery and Wu Guanzhong Gallery.

General Admission (free for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents) applies.

Hashtag: #ChineseInkArt
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About National Gallery Singapore

National Gallery Singapore is a leading visual arts institution which oversees the world’s largest public collection of Singapore and Southeast Asian modern art. Situated at the birthplace of modern Singapore, in the heart of the Civic District, the Gallery is housed in two national monuments – City Hall and former Supreme Court – that have been beautifully restored and transformed into this exciting 64,000 square metre venue. Reflecting Singapore’s unique heritage and geographical location, the Gallery aims to be a progressive museum that creates dialogues between the art of Singapore, Southeast Asia and the world to foster and inspire a creative and inclusive society. This is reflected in our collaborative research, education, long-term and special exhibitions, and innovative programming. The Gallery also works with international museums such as Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, Tate Britain, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT) and National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA), to jointly present Southeast Asian art in the global context, positioning Singapore as a key node in the global visual arts scene.

In 2020, the Gallery was the only museum in Southeast Asia that received a ranking in The Art Newspaper’s annual global survey of attendance at art museums, taking 20th place. It was the first museum in Asia to receive the Children in Museums Award by the European Museum Academy and Hands On! International Association of Children in Museums in 2018. The Gallery also won the awards for “Best Theme Attraction” at TTG Travel Awards 2017, “Best Attraction Experience”, “Breakthrough Contribution to Tourism” and “Best Customer Service (Attractions)” at the prestigious Singapore Tourism Awards in 2016 for its role in adding to the vibrancy of Singapore’s tourism landscape.