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“Floating Ink” was historic exhibit for Whipple Gallery

Kevin Danielson, News Editor

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Contemporary Chinese artwork was on display in the Whipple Gallery as part of the Floating Ink exhibit, which ran from May 9 to Sept. 27. Works were created between 2000 and 2016 by a mix of well-known and younger artists.

Artists on display were Tiger Cai, Lan Cheng, Wu Jun, Zheng Lianjie, IP Peng, You Si and Xue Yaojun. In creating their works, the artists have reinvented traditional Chinese methods to comment on their modern world.

Though the Whipple Gallery has previously displayed international artwork since its founding in 1971, SMSU Professor Emeritus of Art and Director of the Whipple Gallery Edward Evans says Floating Ink was a unique exhibit.

“The logistics of this exhibit are different,” Evans said. “Artworks were acquired from a number of artists living in various, sometimes remote parts of the vast country of China. This is a historic event for our university. Nothing similar has ever occurred at SMSU.”

Paintings ranged from satirical, such as IP Peng’s “Sea Bird #1” to more understated, such as Xue Yaojun’s “The Girl with the Flute.”

As a commentary on genetic engineering and consumerism, “Sea Bird #1” seamlessly combines a bird with a piece of fruit against a calming blue background. This oil painting stood out in the gallery for its unusual style and statement. “The Girl with the Flute,” an oil painting created in 2015, is a piece so detailed, viewers can see every wrinkle in the girl’s blue coat and every strand of hair.

Zheng Lianjie had multiple works in the exhibit including “Untitled,” which is made from ink acrylic on rice paper. The piece combines many shapes and designs which resembles a busy city. You Si also had multiple pieces in the show. Perhaps none was more prominent than “Jungle,” which not only caught viewer’s eyes for its large size, but for its intricacies. The piece also caught the attention of Senior Emily Petersen, who is president of the Art Club.

“It might be because I paint colorful, large paintings myself,” Petersen said. “Overall, it was an interesting show. I’m very thankful for the Whipple Gallery, and that it offers students a wide variety of art.”

Wu Jun displayed two works. Viewers could see “N~ no. 0111” right away as they walked in the gallery. Its repetitive use of indistinguishable faces against a red background is a commentary on individual identity. Lan Cheng displayed “Rhythm of Winter,” an acrylic painting which captures the romantic side of winter. In this, finely textured black trees stand out against a snowy white backdrop. Professor of Art Dr. Pat Brace described this as her favorite piece.

“There was something very compelling about it,” Brace said. “It reminded me of traditional Chinese brush and ink on silk works I have seen.”

The exhibit was curated by Edward Fong, the founder and director of the E-Moderne Gallerie in Philadelphia. Fong says it took nearly one and a half years and two trips to China to mount the show for this travelling exhibition.

On his first trip to China, Fong met the artists, visited their individual studios and learned about their goals. Fong got all the selected artists together on his second trip so they could meet each other and have a creative exchange.

Fong says that due to China’s growing art culture, getting work from Asia to the United States is becoming more challenging. Some pieces in the exhibit were worth up to $100,000.

“I don’t think smaller universities or even bigger ones have the connections and the resources to mount a show at the level of Floating Ink,” Fong said. “I know universities with deep Chinese ties, like Princeton, get some exhibitions but not the level of work it is showing at SMSU. I hope the exhibition can bring more awareness and exposure of Asian contemporary art to the general public.”

The show received many positive reactions from students and professors. Professor of Art Bob Dorlac has viewed the show with many of his students.

“I think [Floating Ink] is an outstanding exhibit and I believe it’s absolutely essential that rural communities such as ours are exposed to art from other cultures,” Dorlac said. “When we view visual art from other countries, we gain insights into the cultures that produced the work.”

The Whipple Gallery’s current showing is the SMSU Alumni Art Exhibit, which runs Sept. 29 through Oct. 21.

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“Floating Ink” was historic exhibit for Whipple Gallery