The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)

Ink wash painting (sumi-e) uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. Sumi-e is the timeless unison of the true self and the universe. When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.

Sumi-e is the expression of the mind and spirit of the artist through the Four Treasures (文房四寶) .

The Four Treasures are:

  • Brush (筆): The ink brush is usually made of goat, rabbit, or yellow weasel hair. The textures are soft, hard or mixed depending on the artist’s use.
  • Ink (墨) : Ink sticks are made of soot mixed with animal glue, and sometimes aromatic or medicinal powders.
  • Paper (紙) : It is not just any kind of paper. It is thin mulberry bark paper (Xuan paper from China and Washi paper from Japan). It is also generically called “rice paper” in the west though rice is not one of the ingredients. It is highly absorbent and unforgiving. The brushstrokes have to be fluid and fast, and mistakes cannot be masked like on watercolour paper.
  • Inkstone (硯) : The inkstone is used for grinding the ink stick with water. The four famous inkstones are Duan, She, Tao and Chengni.

I will discuss each treasure in more details in future blog posts.

 
blogTaiOiYee

Advertisements

Master RuLin-Ni discussing traditional Chinese scroll mounting

Traditional Wet Mounting of Chinese paintings on rice paper is almost a lost art now. I was lucky enough to have taken lessons here in Toronto from Master Shen from Beijing, but I haven’t had much time to practise due to my busy schedule. I should go back for more lessons to hone my skills.

Traditional wet mounting embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork.  Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.

I have found the following video series by Master RuLin Ni 倪汝霖 who is very famous. He discusses and demonstrates scroll mounting in Mandarin, but you can see him in action even if you don’t understand Chinese. After you see the videos, you will realize why it is so difficult, and why it is becoming a lost art. It takes so many days to just mount one painting. That’s why most of the mounting you see nowadays are dry mounted with silicone backing paper, and many of them cheaply machine mounted.

國畫大師倪汝霖老先生談國畫裱褙

This is a series of videos with Master RuLin-Ni talking about Chinese scroll mounting.

Part 1

Part 2

Note: Master RuLin Ni is a very famous Chinese painting artist, especially for his cat paintings. You can see some of his paintings here: http://baike.baidu.com/view/3595182.htm

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

 

I have been getting enquiries from different countries about scroll mounters that I can recommend. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:

If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here are some resources I have found online:

http://www.asianartrestoration.com/
http://www.nationalmuseum.cn/en/survey/introduction/index.jsp
http://www.umma.umich.edu/collections/conservation_lab/eastasian.html

 

 

blogTaiOiYee

Scroll Mounting video

Scroll mounting the traditional way is very difficult.  I still haven’t mastered it. Practice makes perfect. In the meantime, here are a couple very useful videos. This is traditional wet mounting.  It embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork.  Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.

I have been getting enquiries from different countries about scroll mounters that I can recommend. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:

If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here are some resources I have found online:

http://www.asianartrestoration.com/
http://www.nationalmuseum.cn/en/survey/introduction/index.jsp
http://www.umma.umich.edu/collections/conservation_lab/eastasian.html

 

 

blogTaiOiYee

Chinese Scroll Mounting

Who Cares About The Storm Above by Tai Oi Yee

Who Cares About The Storm Above by Tai Oi Yee

Paintings on rice paper can be mounted onto scrolls using either the dry mount method or wet mount method.

Dry mounting is the easy way using silicon release paper whereas wet mounting is the old school way, all done by hand, including making the paste from flour.  Of course I prefer the traditional wet mounting method. It embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork.  Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.

The most common forms are  vertical wall scroll (條幅) and  horizontal wall scroll (橫批). I find the vertical scrolls are more convenient for hanging, but the horizontal scrolls are more suitable for sumi-e with a western feel.

I have finally found an old school traditional scroll mounting master here in Toronto.  I am learning from Master Shen.  I will finally be able to mount my own paintings!

“What’s Up” by Tai Oi Yee

I will be posting what I have learned for those who are interested.  In the meantime,  I have found the following resources  which are very helpful:

OLD SCHOOL WET MOUNTING:

Articles by Master Su (original text in Chinese, use Google Translate to read it in English) :

 Master Su's video

MODERN DRY MOUNTING:

Blue Heron’s Video on dry mounting using silicon release paper

dry

Another video on dry mounting rice paper

More picture guide on silicon release paper

I have been getting enquiries from different countries about scroll mounters that I can recommend. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:

If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here are some resources I have found online:

 

http://www.asianartrestoration.com/
http://www.nationalmuseum.cn/en/survey/introduction/index.jsp
http://www.umma.umich.edu/collections/conservation_lab/eastasian.html

blogTaiOiYee

My Favourite Artists Series (1) – Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

Wu Guan Zhong (吳冠中, 1919–2010) is my favourite artist.  His art is the sublime embodiment of east meets west.

© Wu Guan Zhong

Twin Swallows (雙燕) © Wu Guan Zhong

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

Wu is considered to be one of the greatest contemporary Chinese painters of all-time. Born in Jiangsu, China in 1919, he studied engineering but found his calling and enrolled in art school where he tutored under the great master of Chinese painting, Lin Fengmian. He then left to study art in France and returned to China in 1950.  His works were condemned  during the Cultural Revolution but he continued to paint and his works came to be celebrated internationally.

 

吳冠中- 水鄉周莊

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中 – 水鄉周莊

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

Actually, Wu studied at the National Arts Academy of Hangzhou, and just like my art teacher Master Lai, studied under Pan Tianshou (潘天壽, 1897-1971) and Lin Fengmian (林風眠, 1900-1991). As a matter of fact, Wu Guan Zhong graduated years after my teacher.

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

In 1947 Wu travelled to Paris to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts on a government scholarship. He admired the art of Utrillo, Braque, Matisse, Gauguin, Cézanne and Picasso, and especially for Van Gogh.

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

He returned to China in 1950 and taught at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.  His works were condemned before and during the Cultural Revolution since his art did not comply with the political interests of the time. During these trying times, he continued to paint his works have come to be admired both inside and outside China.

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

(2015 update: I was so inspired by Wu’s watertown paintings that while I visited Shanghai in 2015, I made a special trip to the watertown of Wuzhen , one of the places that Wu painted. It’s amazing how Wu could capture the beauty of the place with minimal brush strokes. )

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

Being born and raised in Hong Kong, I am so proud that Wu Guan Zhong painted Hong Kong’s skyline many times, and made Hong Kong his home in his later years.

 

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

 

I would not attempt to describe his paintings since it would be an insult to his art.  Wu is one of the few famous contemporary Chinese artists who decided not to sell the bulk of his paintings but instead donated them to museums for the public’s enjoyment.

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

© Wu Guan Zhong 吳冠中

blogTaiOiYee

What is Sumi-e?

“Soaring High”by Oi Yee Tai

Sumi-e is inkwash brush painting originating from China over a thousand years ago, and embraced enthusiastically in Japan, Korea and now internationally. The name sumi-e literally means water+ink+painting 水墨畫.

Different names are used in different cultures:

  • Chinese in Mandarin is shui-mo hua and in Cantonese is Sui Mak Wa (水墨畫)
  • Japanese sumi-e (墨絵) or suibokuga (水墨画)
  • Korean sumukhwa (수묵화)

You will find that I use the term ink wash painting, sumi-e, and sumi painting interchangeably here in this blog. But sometimes it is easier to use the shortest word sumi-e when typing.

Ink wash painting uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul.

When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.

blogTaiOiYee