The concept of unpainted white space has a long tradition in Chinese ink. What is unsaid through the unpainted portions of the painting is often just as important as what is said through subtle brushwork and layers of ink. Historically, Chinese ink did not contain white ink. Working within this constraint, Xu Hua Xin uses layers of water wash to create incredibly nuanced tonal gradations of grey. Light brushstrokes of ink are washed repeatedly with water to create a delicately soft, diffused effect. This allows the artist to express the purity and softness of white snow amidst the crystalline hardness of mountains. Mist-covered mountains suggest a furtive, ephemeral shifting of the landscape.
Xu emulates the minimalist poetry of unpainted white space with his own unique approach where the white is composed of repeated water washes with a subtle hint of ink. The xuan paper is soaked in water before Xu paints with a brush that is mostly water and just a little ink. This technique allows the artist to create hazy and misty scenes that appear incredibly natural and clean. His works are an expression of the intensity of water rather than ink, and a balancing of the depth of vision created with ink and the tranquillity and whiteness created by water.
Water has been exalted for its many values throughout Chinese history. A slow, dripping trickle can erode even the biggest obstacle over time, and it has the patience to turn a mountain into a valley. Water is paradoxical by nature – it is formless yet graceful, powerful yet compliant. An artist must tread a fine line when it comes to manipulating water and ink as it demands balance, patience and fortitude. Indeed, the artist vacillates between the role of master and servant. The beauty of Chinese ink is in the precarious brinksmanship between control and chaos. Skill has to embrace unpredictability and a trust in accidental miracles. This is why Xu chooses to work predominantly with water as it continues to reveal and surprise him after so many years.
Xu Hua Xin’s solo exhibition features a massive painting measuring 2.3 metres in height and 8 metres in length that was created over four months with his painstaking water wash technique.
Meet the Artist & Vernissage:
22nd September 2018, Saturday
5pm – 8pm
Book Launch & Autograph Session by Xu Hua Xin
ION Art gallery, Level 4
22nd – 30th September 2018
10:30am – 8:00pm
In Conversation with Xu Hua Xin
Click here to view the full video.
In our interview with him, Xu discusses his philosophy, inspirations and influences in his latest solo exhibition with us. Special feature includes the installation footage of a massive 2.3x8m painting at ION Art gallery.