Liu Kuo-Sung 刘国松, Cascade, 1967
Blending Abstract Expressionism With Chinese Art
What is the relationship between Abstract Expressionism and Chinese art? When I view Abstract Expressionist art, I sense a familiarity with the traditional Chinese style in its glyphs, fluidity, and movement. Yet, how does Chinese Abstract Expressionism resemble Chinese aesthetics so well, but is distinct from traditional work? In this Senior Project, I work to answer these questions by exploring various techniques, from brush flow to collage, and I aim to produce an abstract artwork that blends with a traditional Chinese style.
Currently, I plan to blend a mountain scene with abstract methods that deliver Chinese aesthetics. Leading to the final product is a series of preliminary studies of techniques from both Abstract Expressionism and traditional Chinese painting. I will practice xieyi and shuimo, which involve masterful control over the spread of water and ink to create a looser style of painting seen in many Chinese landscape, flower, and bird compositions. Studying these techniques will require mixing ink and water, as well as controlling the gradient, strength, and spread of the shuimo on xuan paper, commonly known as rice paper. I will reference Western Abstract Expressionism works that primarily use “paint splatter, drip, splash” or large brush strokes and glyphs, as they are similar to Chinese characters. Through iterations of Chinese characters and ideograms, I aim to learn the general style of Chinese calligraphy and rhythmic painting.
Hopefully, I will be able to experience the many unique ways Abstract Expressionist artists used to create their own signature style. A large part of my journey will be experimenting with materials and creative ways to use them, such as collages to achieve a crack-like effect, or tearing canvas to create a striking contrast between black and white. For the final artwork, I will use most, if not all, of the preliminary techniques that I have practiced along the way. By the end of the Senior Project, I hope to be able to compare techniques from both Abstract Expressionism and traditional Chinese art and see how they can come together in one piece.
My relationship with art is merely acquainted; although I always looked at art and even dabbled in drawings, sketching, and digital art, I have never practiced continuously. From a young age, I have seen many works by Fong Chung-Ray, my granduncle, but I never fully realized their depth. Recently, I researched Fong Chung-Ray’s art journey and looked at his many works, and I found myself filled with a sense of calmness, mystique, and sublimity. How does abstract art invoke so much expression without form? This feeling that is so hard to describe is present in so many different works. I wonder just how an artist can express such emotions in such a unique way. Art is a skill that I want to at least try to learn.
Advisors And Location
The advisors who will guide me along my Senior Project are Mrs. Karen Ourthiague, Mrs. Carolyn Phillips, and Mr. Fong Chung-Ray.
Mrs. Ourthiague has been an art teacher for 2 years and spent both of those years at BISV. She has taught Visual Art for 5th and 6th grade, Intro to 2D Art, Digital Photography, AP Art & Design, and next year will be teaching AP Art History as well. Mrs. Ourthiague has an M.A. in Art History and Visual Culture from San Jose State University and her area of expertise within the field of Art History is comic books and graphic novels.
Mrs. Phillips has worked as a professional artist for the past 40 years, both as a painter and illustrator. Her illustrations have been published in various journals and magazines, as well as her own three published books, and her paintings have been shown in museums and art galleries. Before that Mrs. Phillips worked at the National Museum of History in Taiwan for five years (1980-1985). She and her husband have also designed the Chinatown set for Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call! You can find Mrs. Phillips’ online portfolio here.
Mr. Fong Chung-Ray is a professional artist who continues to expand his illustrious career. Since the late 1950s, his work has been displayed at numerous exhibitions with the next one at Galerie de Monde, Hong Kong from March 21-25, 2023. Mr. Fong Chung-Ray’s unique style fuses traditional Chinese ink art with abstract expressionism, where he has experimented with acrylic and ink on canvas, as well as inventing a new brush. Many of his earlier works were more fluid and bear closer resemblance to traditional Chinese art. Now, Mr. Fong Chung-Ray’s works have shifted to prominently use collage, achieving a crack-like effect, seen on time-worn walls. You can learn more about him on his online website and Galerie de Monde’s website.
I should mention that Mr. Fong Chung-Ray is my granduncle which is why I am so excited to start this Senior Project! I haven’t talked to him often prior to deciding on this project due to language barriers, so I will make the most of this opportunity.
Most of my time working will be spent at my grandmother’s backyard shed. It is closer to Mr. Fong Chung-Ray’s studio/house, so I can better ask for advice or watch how he works (when invited). As for now, I will have to work at my own house because I have covid and my grandmother is unexpectedly flying to Taiwan this month, but she will be back.
I will be practicing color theory! This means mixing colors, getting different saturations, increasing and decreasing brightness…all that good stuff. I am not sure how long this will take, but hopefully less than a week. We will see how it goes.