Two Ink Artists From China: T'ang Haywen and Hao Shiming: Coordinator: Nika Webster ,London

September 16, 2021

The Contemporary Development of Chinese Ink Art


Whilst Chinese Ink Art holds thousands of years of cultural significance, Hao Shiming and T’ang Haywen provide an insight into how this art form has progressed alongside contemporary culture in the last century. Chinese contemporary art dates to the 1980s when China opened to the world and Chinese artists within China were exposed to already existing contemporary global art movements. A major movement during this time was the New Ink Art movement - a movement which combines global contemporary painting with the Chinese ancient art forms of calligraphy and painting. T’ang Haywen was active during the 1950s – 1980s, therefore does not belong to the New Ink art movement. However, his work aligns with the definition of New Ink art due to its globalised influences. Ink Art makes up seventy percent of contemporary art being created in China today. Although this art form makes up the majority of China’s contemporary art market, only a very small percentage of these artists are shown in the West due to the way in which the West has stereotyped Chinese contemporary art. There is an existing visual stereotype of Chinese cultural traditions based on notions of exoticism and an attraction to politically subversive artworks which support Western ideologies. These elements have formed an entrenched framework in which Western art institutions engage with Chinese contemporary art. This framework promotes China’s cultural “otherness”, failing to acknowledge artist’s engagement with the modern world and globalisation.  


Breaking geographical boundaries


‘Two Ink Artist’s from China’ showcases two examples of two Chinese Ink artists who are both influenced by their globalised experiences. In T’ang Haywen’s work the gestural and free brush movements, deriving from the Taoist influences in Chinese Ink Art, are perfectly matched to the expressive nature of Western Abstract Expressionism. T’ang Haywen belongs to the group of Chinese painters who settled in Paris after World War II. Influenced by impressionists such as Cézanne and Turner as well as ideals of Taoism and works by Qing dynasty monk and painter, Shitao, T’ang Haywen creates works which are a blend of his East and West surroundings. This combination of East and West is also seen in Hao Shiming’s abstract forms. In his recent works he deconstructs Chinese characters to create Western style abstract paintings. With this stylistic blend of East and West he creates new forms of contemporary art which transcend geographical boundaries. By deconstructing the characters, he is unravelling the complex layers of Chinese traditional art, with a goal to rebuild and create new meanings more suited to our modern global world.


Both artists belong to different generations however clearly showcase the diverse influences that globalisation has had on this traditional art form. Hao Shiming, living and working in our current global surroundings is trained in traditional Chinese painting and is highly skilled in the traditional Chinese art form ‘Gongbi’ – a method which uses extremely fine lines with fine brushes. He has applied this traditional technique to the development of his style blending Chinese traditional form with Western abstraction. T’ang Haywen, although he lived during a less globally connected time, showcases influences in his works which were a natural amalgamation of his Chinese background and French surroundings.


This exhibition shows just two examples of how China’s New Ink Art movement is ever changing and adapting alongside our globalising world. Especially in our more recent times, where Covid has forced us to close boundaries between countries, HdM is hoping to broaden our insight into the reality of Chinese contemporary art in China today.


About T’ang Haywen


T’ang Haywen (1927-1991) is a pioneer of contemporary Chinese ink art and was one of the first Chinese artists to move away from the more traditional figurative and landscape form of Chinese ink painting. Born in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China, in 1948 T’ang moved to Paris to study medicine, he then became passionately immersed in the cultural environment of the time studying French Civilisation, Classical texts and the works of Western masters. Unlike his contemporaries Zao Wou-Ki and Chu Teh-Chun, who formally studied under Lin Fengmian – a Chinese painter and art educator that wanted to reconcile Chinese traditional art with Western Modernism - T’ang was a self-taught painter that combined Eastern Taoist tradition with a more lyrical Western aesthetic. Though he was involved in many creative social circles in Paris at the time, he chose to live a more understated life. In his later years he settled in the south of France and died at the age of 64 due to respiratory complications caused by AIDS. His work produces homages to expressionist masters whilst continuing to exemplify the simplicity and elegance of the Chinese artistic style.


T’ang Haywen’s work is included in many public and private collections worldwide. Namely in The Menil Collection in Houston, The National Academy of Sciences in Washington, The Museum of Modern Art in the Paris City Museum, The Contemporary Art Museum in Nice and M+ Museum in Hong Kong. He has also had works shown in many solo as well as group exhibitions. His most renowned solo exhibitions were: ‘The Tao of Painting: T’ang Haywen, A Retrospective’ at  Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan (1997) ‘T’ang Haywen: Inks and Watercolours’ at Yishu 8, Beijing (2011), ‘T’ang Haywen: The Colours of Ink’ at the De Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong (2014). His works were also part of many groundbreaking group exhibitions such as ‘Tiananmen 4 June – 4 December I Do Not Forget’ at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1989) and ‘Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting in Paris’ at the De Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong (2014).


About Hao Shiming


Hao Shiming (1977), born in Heze, Shandong province, China is now currently living and working in Hubei at the Hubei Provincial Academy of Fine Arts. He graduated in 2000 from the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts majoring in traditional painting, and in 2014 he graduated from the Capital Normal University.


Hao Shiming’s work is part of the collections of many established Chinese galleries and Museums such as - National Art Museum China, Beijing, Shangdong Art Museum, Jinan, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan, Wuhan Art Museum, Wuhan and Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou. He has also shown in a multitude of group exhibitions such as Ink Painting on Going: 2000-2009 (2020) Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China and Art Brussels (2018) HdM GALLERY, Brussels, Belgium. As well as had many solo exhibitions such Hao Shiming’s Art Exhibition (2019), Hubei Provincial Academy of Fine Arts, Wuhan, China, and Hao Shiming | Chinese New Ink (2019), Galerie La Forest Divonne, Brussels, Belgium.