(Featured image: A Metamorphosis: No End to End / Jennifer Wen Ma / Hua Yuan Exhibition at MGM)
Art Macao has landed in the city with full force and is showing us all that there’s much more to Macau than we think. MGM Cotai hosts exhibitions that’s part of the incredible program of Art Macao to amaze guests and visitors alike, delivering a sophisticated and yet beautiful experience to all. “Hua Yuan” focuses on two artists showcasing their Chinese ink works interactively where one feels like they’re part of the art. Taking Chinese ink painting to new heights and mediums, this exhibition is not one to be missed especially if you’re curious to see how this ancient art is being elevated in modern times.
Chinese Ink: A 5,000 Year Old Art
To better understand how Chinese ink became a revered medium, one must go back almost 5,000 years. It is believed that the first ink writing ever dates from 2500 B.C. and was made by the Egyptians and later, the Chinese. However, Chinese inventor Tien-Lcheu was the one responsible for establishing a more modern mixture: soot from trees and oil. Many argue that the maintenance of historical information and documents in China would have not been possible without ink, since it lasted for years on end, unlike most of the other available materials at the time.
China’s traditional painting style (with black ink on paper or silk) is nowadays known as Guóhuà (國畫), which translates to “national” or “native painting”, opposed to ancient European styles that also became quite famous on this side of the world. Brushes, ink, inkstones and paper were the four items known as “four precious things of the library”, and of grave importance to scholars and intellectuals.
To better understand Chinese painting, it’s important to know that it has two main techniques, the first being, Gongbi (工筆). Paintings are mostly colorful and generally depicts figures or narratives, with highly detailed brushstrokes. The second is Shuǐmò (水墨, “water and ink”), the Chinese version of watercolor also known as the “literati painting” style, one of the “Four Arts” in Chinese arts school. Those who have been in traditional Chinese households, or museums, might have noticed a pattern when it comes to the content of these paintings: landscapes are a must, especially mountains–made with strong black lines and dotted brushstrokes to imitate rough stone–in the north of the country, and rivers and hills depicting scenery that’s most seen in the south.
Jennifer Wen Ma’s Artworks: Taking Chinese Ink to a new Level
MGM Cotai recognizes the constant and evergreen value of Chinese ink. That’s why it is showcasing two grand exhibitions with Art Macao involving this means of expression in a contemporary manner. Upon entering the hotel lobby, one meets the grandiosity of “A Metamorphosis: No End to End” by Wen Ma, which shows that ink is limitless in its use and allows the audience to interact with the artwork itself.
Through mazes and visual manipulation, the artist created three-dimensional figures representative of flowers and plants which can be seen and photographed either from the ground floor or by going up to level 1: once there, dimensions multiply and have a life of their own; on the walls and floors. Made of laser-cut flash spun non-woven HDPE garden, mixed metal armature, iridescent pigment, LED video content, small lighting components, Jennifer’s art piece is an exact reflection of its title: a metamorphosis.
The artist also created “Paradise Interrupted: An Installation Opera in One Act”, at MGM Theater. Telling the story of a woman in search of ideals in a world that comes to life when she sings, it’s co-produced by Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center Festival, Singapore International Festival of Arts and National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts. Jennifer Wen Ma directs the performance and is also its concept and visual designer.
“The creative use of interactive technology enables a host of digital characters to interact with the heroine within a magical garden to create an enchanting story”, organizers explain. Check out more details about this here. Jennifer is a visual artist born in Beijing and moved to New York, graduating with a Masters of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute (1999). Her drive for creating contemporary art landed her a spot in the creative team of seven members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The traditions behind Chinese ink are some of her greatest passions, motivating her exploration of this theme in several of her artworks. She has exhibited in several cities in the U.S., but also Spain and China, among others.
Yang Yongliang Goes on a “Journey to the Dark II”
Contemporary Chinese artist Yang Yongliang leaves everyone at MGM Theater mesmerized. It’s through a video installation with nearly no action or movement that the artist composes a perfect sonnet with Macau as the background. Unsure of how it was made, audiences are able to see a city that both does and doesn’t exist. Let us clarify–the video installation is a mesh of different parts of Macau all in one; overlaid images move slowly and one can spot traffic, lights going on and off inside apartment buildings, structures built on mountains; both of the latter exist, but not in the way Yongliang has portrayed them on screen.
Born in 1980, Shanghai, Yang later graduated from the China Academy of Art. His works have been exhibited at museums and biennials all over the world. “His is renowned for exploiting connections between traditional art and the contemporary, implementing ancient oriental aesthetics and literati beliefs with modern language and digital techniques”, the organizer says.
What better place to exhibit this than at MGM Theater? For “Journey to the Dark II”, the performance hall removed its chairs and left the 180º screen for all to appreciate and enjoy. Specially commissioned for Art Macao, “Journey to the Dark II” is a juxtaposition of slow-motion settings where one is able to recognize almost every detail, but never the scenery as a whole. One might even say it’s a perfect description of Macau: a city with familiar places and faces all around, but a little vague when looked at from afar.
This piece is also a reinterpretation of traditional Chinese painting, where reality, combined with digital means and a virtual, imaginative perspective of Macau, result in one of Art Macao’s most striking pieces. Multi-channel 4K video elements such as urbanism and architecture blends with the typical layered mountains painted throughout the Song dynasty–few art pieces leave us mesmerized, but this video installation is one of a kind. Maybe it’s the chosen setting–MGM Theater allows a spectacular 180º view with its rounded projecting walls–the scenic images or the black and white option of the artist. Perhaps it’s the combination of all these that make this a magnificent exhibition, ready to be seen again and again. Free of charge, one can simply check online or call MGM Cotai to know the exact time the video starts. “Journey to the Dark II” has ended on August 3, 2019.
When: June 7–October 20, 2019
Where: MGM Cotai, Avenida da Nave Desportiva, Cotai
How much: Free admission
For more information, check the event’s website