Fung Ming Chip: The Alchemy of New and Old Ink

Fung Ming Chip
Fung Ming Chip, Six Views from My Dream, 2017-2018. Generously donated by the artist amd Galerie du Monde.
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CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

Alexandra Seno interviews the Hong Kong artist and calligraphy innovator Fung Ming Chip, uncovering his process and his inspiration

INTERVIEW: Alexandra Seno
IMAGES: Courtesy of the Artist

 

Artistic innovation occurs when talent and accomplishment engage with tradition. For someone like the Hong Kong artist Fung Ming Chip, who was self-taught, the reformation of Chinese calligraphy came about naturally. It was his driven character and highly personalized education that helped him to develop an original voice and an art practice which many describe as being completely outside the box.

Honing his practice through artist residencies, including one at Cambridge University, Fung Ming Chip has created hundreds of works over the years. Their form gravitates between poetry and image-making. The only constant in his art process is continuous change. “Sometimes I feel like a shark,” says the artist. “You really have to swim all the time, otherwise you can’t breathe and you die. I follow the feeling and do whatever I want to do. Luckily, I have this chance.”

Born in Guangdong, Fung’s family moved to Hong Kong in 1956 when he was a boy. In 1977, they relocated again to New York. A nomad, Fung moved to Taipei in 1986. Although he moved back to Hong Kong in 2006, he still travels back to New York and Taipei throughout the year. In New York, Fung started carving seals, the ancient stamps used by traditional artists to sign their own works, and he eventually focused on calligraphy. Today, Fung Ming Chip can be defined not only as a visual artist, but also as a writer and poet.

 

Fung Ming Chip, Six Views from My Dream, 2017-2018. Generously donated by the artist amd Galerie du Monde.

 

You have been a great traveller who has seen a lot of art. What kind of art are you mostly drawn to when you are in museums or galleries?

It is what I would call new art. It is new to me, but conceptually and technically, it has a link to the tradition of calligraphy. That’s the work I really love. Of course, I also have a huge admiration for traditional calligraphy because it links to your internal energy. That kind of art shows you how to use your energy through a line and put it on paper. Traditional art belongs to another kind of system of looking into the universe.

 

Some of your calligraphy is not easy to understand because there is poetry in it and references to philosophy. Where does your text come from?

95% of my texts are my own poems. However, I’m really amazed by the poems of the Tang and Song dynasties. They really move me and have a familiar feeling because I read a lot of them in my childhood. I have also done work on the famous text of the Hearts Sutra. I am quite amazed by the philosophy behind Buddhism because it talks about humanity, action and its consequences. The logic behind it is different from Western philosophy, so I really got into it in terms of the philosophy.

For me, the most interesting part of the Heart Sutra is its take on existence and non-existence. The core of the sutra is “form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form”. Which means we see things that we think exist, and at the same time, everything is changing. The form will be destroyed and become another thing. In some ways, it is very scientific because the energy never gets destroyed, it is just transformed. That’s the Heart Sutra to me. Everything is moving.


Can you tell us about your technique and your latest experiments with it? Do you work with, or reference, traditional ink painting techniques?

All the techniques that I use are from calligraphy. There is one I call “new and old ink”. I just put some new and old ink together, and add a lot of water and put this mixture on the paper and let it evaporate. For another work, I would use old paper that I have thrown away to recreate something new. I just re-elaborate the paper until the work is up to my standard. These days I do so many different things and then choose the best work best to generate a series from it. So, the process is very flexible.

 

Why have you been focusing on landscape in recent times?

I think all the Chinese artists have landscapes in their mind or their soul. So, eventually, I decided to do landscape myself. It allowed me much more freedom compared to calligraphy. I really enjoyed it. And through the process, I can tell which part of my senses was involved in creating that piece of work. Calligraphy is harder is because you have to keep a complete point or sentence in it. You can’t use only half of it. But if you are doing a painting, say on a large piece of paper, you can just cut off a particular corner that is good enough.

 

What are the main issues you have been trying to resolve in your art practice lately?

I don’t think it is a more conceptual way because I just follow my feelings. So when I want to do something, I just go for it. That’s why I do so many different things. In that way, I’m not a thinking person, I just follow my intuition. It is only later on that I might look at it critically and reflect on it.

 

 


 

Alexandra Seno is Head of Development at Asia Art Archive. An art critic for RTHK Radio 4, she has served on the executive committee of the Oriental Ceramics Society of Hong Kong, the board of Para Site Art Space, and as adviser to non-profits Spring Workshop in Hong Kong and Calle Wright in Manila. She has written about culture and the economics of culture for publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek Magazine, The Art Newspaper and Architectural Record Magazine.

 

 
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