In previous V. Notes, I’ve posted work by our sumi instructor Angie Dixon, Huang Yongyu, Pan Gongkai, and stuff you didn’t know about sumi. Today I wanted to broaden my view of sumi painting. I wanted to see more works that are being created in the medium today. With Google as my guide, I collected nine contemporary sumi artists who are alive and producing fresh, relevant works within this traditional art form that started in China a thousand years ago. This a collection of artists who have traditional training in sumi, and who use the medium to create interesting, engaging, and relevant contemporary works. Side note: 100% men When my search for contemporary sumi artists did not produce a single female artist, I searched specifically for “female contemporary sumi artist” and my stomach turned to see a spread of artworks not made by women, but made of women. The paintings represented neither art nor women well and I was so disgusted I nearly didn’t post these nine men at all. Please forgive me this imbalance, it is real. I did find this fabulous post: 25 Famous Female Painters in Japanese Art. I encourage you to check it out. Other than that, it’s a desert. Feel free to add the names of female sumi painters below this post! Ok, now on to the men: Li Huayi Li Huayi (b. 1948) is a Chinese contemporary sumi artist whose admiration for the monumental landscapes of the Northern Song dynasty inspired him to create his own style of dramatic mountain landscapes, cascading waterfalls, and finely wrought twisted pines. Liu Dan Liu Dan was born in China in 1953. In 1981 he moved to the United States where he stayed for 25 years. Though Liu Dan does not tend towards a single subject matter, he is known to paint what he calls “uncertain” subjects, since he believes that “the clearer the feeling, the blurrier the image.” His best known works depict landscapes, flowers, and what is known as Guai Shi (odd stones) in traditional Chinese art and literati culture. From this, Liu has developed a theory of landscape painting he calls a “micro exploration through macro understanding.” (Source) He currently lives in Beijing, China. Lo Ch’ing Lo Ch’ing was born in China in 1948, but has lived in Taiwan for most of his life. Given the location, I am inclined to note that Lo earned an MA in comparative literature at the University of Washington, Seattle in 1974. Lo is a celebrated painter, poet and calligrapher in Taiwan, recognized as one of a handful of Chinese painters who have reinvigorated Chinese ink painting for contemporary audiences. Li Xubai Born in 1940, Li Xubai moved to Hong Kong in 1979, and then to Canada in 1996, where he now lives. Although he first taught himself western-derived painting, Li began to study Chinese classical literature, poetry and landscape painting in the 1960s. His paintings are constructions of landscape elements without a specific relationship to any one geographical site. Li Xubai maintains his connection with the contemporary world by creating a seemingly flat pictorial space and a pixilated effect that reminds digital media. Tai Xiangzhou In his ink paintings of rocky landscapes, Tai Xiangzhou (b. 1968) links traditional 17th century Chinese methods of painting with astronomy and science. He treat rocks as otherworldly, cosmic vessels that link distant places and past times to the present and future. “Rocks have no starting point and ending point—they are timeless,” the artist has said. Tai’s engagement with tradition extends to his materials; he works only on silk-derived paper made using a 10th-century Chinese method. Gu Wenda a temple of pseudo-english, chinese, hindi, arabic made of human hair curtains collected from all over the world gu wenda, united nations: american code, 1995–2019. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–20. Note: the hanging curtains are braided hair. The writing is also made of hair (see below). detail Gu Wenda is a contemporary artist from China who lives and works in New York City. Much of his works are themed around traditional Chinese calligraphy and poetry. His works often use human hair. Qin Feng Born in 1961, Qin Feng is part of China’s avant-garde movement. Qin paints with a variety of styles and mediums, and the unrestrained energy of the Abstract Expressionists. He has influences in Russia, Germany, US, and more. Inspired by his upbringing in Xinjiang, a multicultural intersection of the silk roads, Qin has incorporated Chinese, Uighur, Arabic, and Russian language into his work. Wang Dongling A prominent modernist Chinese calligrapher, Wang Dongling is associated with the ’90s experimental ink movement, which elevated the form of gestural markings over content. Wang, however, shares the performative concerns of traditional calligraphy, which places emphasis on the act of writing as an expression of the relationship between art and the body. He experiments with his use of brush, and the movements of his fingertips, wrists, arms, and his entire body. (Source) Wei Ligang A master of modern Chinese calligraphy, Wei Ligang (b. 1964) paints ink renderings of Chinese characters that often morph into abstraction. Wei uses the impulsive gestures of expressionism while his characters remain rooted in the square structures that form the basis of calligraphy. Wei trained as a mathematician, and many of his works are based on “Wei Squares,” a formula drawn from the square framework printed on the practice paper used by students of calligraphy. If you found any of the above artists interesting, I encourage you to look them up. Each artist has such a variety of work that it was difficult to choose only two examples to represent each. Also, many artworks did not come with size measurements. Many are enormous, and while it’s always better to see the work in person, if you’re going to look at artwork, seeing the paintings in a size and space context with people and gallery or museum rooms always gives me a different experience. So pick a favorite and check them out! The more you see, the better they get.