'INK: One Day in June' Exhibit Opening & Film Screening at Studio-X Beijing


“One Day in June,” opened on June 26, 2010 and featured an exhibition of ink paintings and abstract films of dialogues in ink between Qin Feng, Michelle Fornabai, Liang Quan and George Zhang.

The exhibition explores the ‘spontaneous’ aspect of ink in painting and abstract film. Spontaneity has a history in ink painting, ranging from the “spontaneous style” of the scholar-amateur painters of the Song dynasty in Chinese ink painting, to the “automatic writing” developed by the Surrealists used to explore an involuntary recording dreams and desires, in order to elicit the subconscious level of the mind to stimulate creativity. By definition, the ‘spontaneous’ is alternately described as a voluntariness or will, yet one which is inflected by, pleasure, desire and frame of mind—the humor, mood, disposition and inclination of the, impromptu, indeliberate, unmediated and unprompted. The ‘spontaneous’ implies a rawness of material and of untrained action balanced by self-control, determination and resolution.

The artists in this exhibition display a diverse range of directions, applying chance, coincidence, accident, or incidental circumstance to disciplined mark making, thus freeing the drawing process of rational control. The works provoke questions—how does spontaneity as a ‘flowing cognition’ experienced through varying occupations in time—by the gesture which moves from a moment to a memory, or by the repetition of improvised movements which accumulate experience in duration—transform our ideas of habit, function and program in the architecture of everyday life?

A series of abstract films that document a dialogue in ink between the participating artists will be screened at the exhibit opening. By documenting the artists speaking to each other directly through the medium of ink, the films intend to provoke a consideration of the ineffable aspects of ink.

As part of Columbia University GSAPP’s growing Global Studio-X Network Initiative (www.arch.columbia.edu/studio-x-global), the “first truly global network for real-time exchange of projects, people, and ideas between regional leadership cities,” “ink” is proposed to foster interdisciplinary dialogues among scholars, artists, curators, calligraphers and architects in Beijing and New York. Conceived as three panel discussions on “ink” which gradually broaden in scale and scope to be held over the course of a year—in Beijing, then New York, and again in Beijing—this series of “ink” events and “ink” exhibits will explore ink’s rich and varied potential as a medium to reflect upon elusive aspects latent in intellectual and artistic expression.


Curated by Qing Pan, Curator for International Exhibitions, National Museum of China

Michelle Fornabai’s “Synesthesia Series” paintings explore the relations between material stimuli and their perceptual and cognitive associations. Synesthesia, an experience by which one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an automatic, involuntary experience in another--sound to color, form, texture, or text—is engaged by painting, literally, on a song. “One Day in June,” originally inscribed on a piano roll for automatic play by a player piano in 1917, acts as both a medium (paper scroll) and an acoustic milieu for a process of painting over the course of the month of June. The original song, stretched to a period of six hours forty-eight minutes, provides the interval for each day’s painting period, and informs the gestures of the painting process itself. Repeated over the course of the month of June while in residence at Studio-X Beijing, Michelle Fornabai uses these strict temporal constrictions to explore the extemporaneous.

On the first look, George Chang’s meticulously rendered mysterious images appear very different from Michelle Fornabai’s work, but surprisingly they share a kindred spirit in making. George Zhang begins all his images with a free-hand scribble that comes to him in a moment of fancy. From these unconsiousnessly constucted marks and forms, he makes a conscious aesthetic choice that brings an image into the foreground. Sometimes he starts with a random set of lines; sometimes with a patch of color. He often works with several paintings at the same time, leaving them unfinished and scattered on the table of his studio, and returns to complete them whenever inspirations strike. He allows the capricious images within him to surface according to his mood at a given moment. 

Liang Quan’s ea diary series are also memories of his thoughts and feelings. While George’s images reveal a diverse range of emotions and dreams, Liang Quan’s tea series aim at achieving an ideal Zen-like state through daily meditation. Liang Quan uses the marks left on paper by tea cups as a journal to record his daily peaceful moment with himself. These daily traces, though similar in appearance but full of subtle and varied details, echo the characteristics of daily life. While looking at the tea marks individually, we cannot decipher artist’s state of the mind, but looking at them as a whole, we sense a state of tranquility. By reinterpreting meditation, Liang Quan uses a simple daily activity to experience the essence of Zen.

Qin Feng’s paintings use gesture to emphasize the physical and performance aspects that are embodied in Chinese ink painting. While traditional Chinese ink painters aim at “having the bamboo fully formed in the mind” before putting down a mark on paper, Qin Feng amplified the spontaneous aspect of the painting process by trusting the guidance of his gestures. His brush process reminds us of Jackson Pollock’s action-painting which unleashed the artist’s emotion. On the other hand, his marks of action revealed the wide repertoire of Chinese calligraphy