T his October, Sotheby’s Hong Kong presents Journey – a themed auction of contemporary ink art. As pioneers of the Contemporary Ink category, our specialists present a unique juxtaposition of early explorations and iconic later works by established ink masters to create an extraordinary visual symphony.
LIU KUO-SUNG, BLUE MOON LANDSCAPE, INK, COLOUR, AND COLLAGE ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$4,000,000 — 5,000,000.
In December of 1968, the Apollo VIII space mission published Earthrise, the iconic photograph viewing the Earth from space. This image forever changed the human perception of the Earth and universe. It was also a source of inspiration for artists such as Liu Kuo-sung, often deemed the father of contemporary ink painting. In one of his earliest space series works, Blue Moon Landscape, he used natural pigments and acrylic on handmade cotton fibre paper to paint with brushless techniques and collage methods, which broke the boundaries of traditional ink painting.
The sight of the Earth from the Moon is truly astonishing; Liu Kuo-sung, as an artist, recorded man’s exploration of the universe with his own brush. This transcendent journey also mirrors the development and changes of Chinese ink painting in the contemporary era, as well as the growth and transformation of the personal style of ink artists. Thus, Journey, as a sale theme, not only refers to the passage of time, but also symbolizes the contemporary interpretation of tradition, and the artistic spirit of experimentation and exploration. In this sale, the juxtaposition of earlier and later works by established ink artists enables a dynamic dialogue between the two interpretations, which fully embody the theme and connotation of Journey.
(LEFT) LIU DAN, WARRING STATES PROCESSION, INK ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$280,000 — 350,000.
(RIGHT) LIU DAN, SUNFLOWER, INK ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$800,000 — 1,200,000.
Contemporary Ink can be described as the integration and collision of contemporary art and traditional ink, and thus embraces both tradition and continuity. The contemporary artists presented in this sale—Gu Wenda, Xu Bing, Xu Lei, Liu Wei, Fang Zhaolin, to name a few—established their mature style based on a solid foundation of traditional ink painting through systematic trainings from a young age. Their works intrinsically exemplify their own interpretation of "inheritance".
Liu Dan’s personal style is often characterized by his meticulous gongbi brushwork and balanced compositions that combine painting and calligraphy. This stems from his solid foundation in traditional Chinese landscape painting and figurative sketching inspired by Old Master drawings. Journey presents five rare masterworks by Liu Dan, including his early painting – Warring States Procession, which was influenced by the art of the Warring States period, and his later works of scholar’s rock and flower subjects. They altogether reflect Liu’s interpretations of tradition in different phases of his artistic development.
PENG WEI, ROBE SERIES: GOLDEN PHOENIX AND CRANES, INK, COLOUR AND GOLD ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$300,000 — 500,000.
Last October, Sotheby's Hong Kong presented the selling exhibition Two Generations: Ink Art by Peng Xiancheng & Peng Wei featuring the artistic legacy between father and daughter—undoubtedly one of the best interpretations of "inheritance". In this season’s sale, Peng Wei’s Robe Series: Golden Phoenix and Cranes is inspired by traditional Chinese embroidery and textiles. Using fine brushstrokes on paper to recreate different textures she captures a passion for traditional craftsmanship through a contemporary lens.
(LEFT) LUI SHOU-KWAN, ZEN, PAINTING INK AND COLOUR ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$400,000 — 600,000.
(RIGHT) LUI SHOU-KWAN, FLOWERS, INK AND COLOUR ON PAPER, ESTIMATE HK$40,000 — 60,000.
Maintaining tradition whilst embracing change has always been an important driving force for the development of contemporary ink art, endowing it with ongoing diversity and liveliness.
Lui Shou-kwan is widely respected for his later Zen paintings, which combine abstraction and expressive brushworks to create a striking visual impact. However, his artistic journey started from imitating classical Chinese masterpieces under the influence of his father. After moving to Hong Kong in 1948, he focused on outdoor sketching and landscape paintings. His mature Zen style, though inspired by Western abstract art and Zen Buddhism in China, achieved its full potential by embracing his earlier training and experience.
Contemporary Ink Art: Journey provides viewers with a rare opportunity to experience both the tradition of Chinese ink painting and its contemporary reinterpretation by renowned ink artists through the exhibition of their masterpieces from different periods, and to explore the essence of contemporary ink art – where the past meets the present.