Art review: calligrapher Fung Ming Chip plays with characters

Shu Fa Sutra, an exhibition of work by a Hong Kong calligraphy stalwart, shows his playful interpretations of the ancient Chinese art form

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 6:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 December, 2015, 4:10pm

Hong Kong’s auction market has long been dominated by traditional literati ink paintings, ceramics and furniture. Inevitably, this interest in antiquities has expanded, with galleries now specialising in, as well as exhibiting, contemporary Chinese ink art.

This culminated in the city’s first dedicated ink art fair – Ink Asia 2015 – last weekend (December 18 to 20).

Appropriately, Galerie du Monde’s parallel exhibition with the fair is of works by artist Fung Ming Chip, one of the stalwarts of calligraphy in Hong Kong.

SEE ALSO: Script tease: Fung Ming Chip makes new play on Chinese characters

Fung explains that “shu fa” is writing as an art form made up of three parts. First, it is the written characters; second, the way of writing; and third, “like the flower to garnish the dish”, is the seal carving adhered to a painting to mark the presence of the artist.

Fung explains that as a young man, it was seal carving that initially held his interest. Over the years, he has experimented with mural-sized wood blocks that extended the idea of seal carving.

And his seals, chopped on paper in standard vermilion red and also shown in this exhibition, are often non-traditional – a naive carved word font, printed backwards, or containing just a single symbol or object, a rabbit or gourd, for example.

Fung is a playful calligrapher. His artistic interest is held by experimentation alongside the more formal struggle to find the aesthetic balance of text within the blankness of paper. He uses countless script forms, including impressions of musical notation, “multi-lined” or double imagery as seen in a mirror, scattered text across the paper, some bold and others light-watered.

Fung’s calligraphy also reflects, albeit subtly, landscape or religious iconography. In his large work Departure, literati rock formations are scattered among the text but are also part of the calligraphy.

This sleight of hand is achieved by placing a template of the required rock shape over the completed lighter text, then a darker underlay and corresponding bolder text is painted within the template. The text is almost secondary to the landscape.

However, The Rules(2012), executed in a falling, increasingly bold black script, clearly state Fung’s thoughts, his striving for diversity, excitement and more: “What is love?/ Expensive and meaningless/ Ultimately a wave of emptiness/ Yearning for something to bite ...”

Fung Ming Chip: Shu Fa Sutra, Galerie du Monde, until December 31