An ink pioneer who envisaged something bigger

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 July, 2011, 12:00am


The world of visual art has lost one of the most influential and innovative modern Chinese ink painters.

Irene Chou, known for her full and complex brushstrokes, splashing and piling of ink, and representation of her mind's vision of the universe, died on July 1. She was 87.

'She had developed her own pile ink technique - small strokes of ink gradually building up to make a three-dimensional effect,' said Alice King of Alisan Fine Arts, who knew Chou in the 1980s before the artist left for Australia in 1992.

'I really admire her talent, her technique as a dedication to promote Chinese ink painting, her dedication and her devotion to continually working on ink paintings so that [her style] would become something that would identify ink paintings as a form of Chinese paintings.'

Chou's works have been praised for their experimental, even cosmic, qualities. According to Johnson Chang Tsong-zung, founder of Hanart T.Z. Gallery, she was a pioneer of the New Ink Painting movement, which blends modern Western aesthetics and traditional Chinese elements.

'Irene was one of the first who really explored the possibility of the inner physical body as a metaphor of the outer cosmos,' Chang said. 'Many of her paintings started with meditative, introspective imagination about the re-entering of the physical female body.'

Chou, also known as Zhou Luyun, was born in Shanghai in 1924. She moved to Hong Kong in 1949 and was one of the few Chinese female modernist painters of her time.

Her works are held by institutions such as the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the National Museum of History in Taipei, the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Chou is survived by her husband Evan Yin Wen, three children - Dr Michael Yang, Julia Yang Warwin and Catherine Yang - four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.