Artist creates ‘nothingness’ with imaginative use of ink that both intrigues and fascinates, Deng Zhangyu reports.
It’s difficult enough for artists to create a recognizable image worthy of appreciation. How much more difficult, then, for an artist to explore “nothingness”? With the paintings, the artist seems to try to lead the viewers into the abyss of the unknown, into the void.
For decades, ink painter Zhu Jianzhong has dedicated himself to such an exploration. He has sought to translate his understanding of that concept, which he views as “a spiritual cultivation”.
Zhu, 67, has an ongoing show at the Tokyo Gallery + Beijing Tokyo Art Projects in the Chinese capital, where his ink works, made between 2018 and 2020, are on display.
His technique involves layering ink on paper to form different shades of black and gray to finally reach his goal-drawing or suggesting the “nothingness” that logically, of course, does not exist.
“Nothingness on canvas can be seen as empty space. But it exists in Chinese ink painting as a kind of intimation of the air between earth and sky,” says Zhu, who tries to paint the “air” out.
When Zhu starts a painting, he never thinks about how it will look. He is setting out on an adventure, a trek into the unknown. His ink and water layering, centimeter by centimeter, can end up being several meters long. The one certainty is that the route and destination are unpredictable.