The Chinese expression 馭墨 yumo, literally ‘riding ink’, evokes two interconnected values in our practice: movement and its trace. 馭 yu could be translated as ‘mastering’ or ‘taming’, either when composing with wilderness or perfecting a gesture, be it with a bow, a cithar or... the brush. As for 카mo, ‘ink’, it is both the black earth we travel to and the one we leave behind.

馭墨 yumo expresses the versatile nature of ink, the swift movement of painted scrolls accross diverse landscapes, the universality of traces and strokes, and travelling brushes of course. It keeps a foot in traditional tools and materials while remaining open to change.

馭墨 yumo has accompanied the events devoted to modern calligraphy and contemporary ink painting to which myself and Zhang Qiang contributed in the last few years (Chongqing - Sign/Site and Biface Graphy 2014, Hangzhou - Literati Lab 2017, Hainan - Presence of China 2017; Venice Ink Art Week 2018, Venice Lithic Impressions 2018).

The red seal attached to the calligraphy is engraved with the 64 hexagrams of the «Classic of Changes» (Yi Jing 弄쒔). The myths surrounding the origins of this binary language connect it with the invention of Chinese characters. Writing mimicks, derives from or maps the mutations of all living matter and beings, such as the pattern of waves, tortoise shells or animal fur. Which gives birth to one another remains a pending question: writing to nature or vice versa? 

Seal carving, the «art of the iron brush», is an often forgotten bridge between painting and writing, calligraphy and epigraphy, solid stone and versatile paper. On the occasion of INK BRUSSEL 2019, when calligraphy is hosted by architecture, the discipline of seal carving offers a much needed missing link between art and craft, sign and matter, script and landscape.

Tour-à-tour artists and curators, with a strong focus on theoretical research, we have attempted for each of these events to experiment with new spaces, partners, audiences and institutions (an architecture practice converted into a one-off show hall in the case of Chongqing House, a pair of villas converted into a private museum in the case of Literati Lab, a craft fair hosting a contemporary art exhibit in Hainan and a combination of academic and artistic institutions in Venice).   

We are looking forward to collaborate with yet another circle of artists, curators and institutions during INK BRUSSELS 2019.

A dozen of Chinese Ink Riders meet their occidental homologues, fellow calligraphers, painters and plasticians, scholars and connoisseurs, students and amateurs... around the questions that arise when one holds in hand a brush and ink, or other tools for writing. Suddenly made visible, words produce worlds of their own. Becoming unreadable, they stand somewhere in-between writing and painting. A fresh angle is offered to ancient and modern disputes about sign and matter, nature and culture, gesture and the body... by the specific status of writing and landscape representation in Chinese art. 

Brussels is home to artistic collaboration, black wires on grey horizons, «la ligne claire» and flat skies of alternate dimensions. In other words, the perfect cradle for an experiment on bringing individuals, groups and institutions together on a dreamy quest along the lines of abstraction in ink. 

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May 6 - 11, 2019

INK BRUSSELS 2019 (Semaine de l’Encre - 꼈쨀힘랑彊카鷺), to be held from May 6 to 12, combines conferences and workshops in the field of contemporary ink held in Auditoire Victor Bourgeois and Espace Architecture at the Faculty of Architecture La Cambre-Horta ULB, place Flagey. 

This week of theoretical and practical events introduces the quest for abstraction in the practice of calligraphy and painting with a specific angle  on Chinese writing to the Belgian public, offering the opportunity of direct contacts between the public and invited artists and scholars. This travelling event functions as a collaborative enterprise between ink artists, curators and academic or cultural institutions in the host country.

Paysage écrit/Ecriture peinte, a collective exhibition of 49 artists combining contemporary calligraphy and landscape painting, will be held in Espace Architecture from May 6 to 30, 2019. The show gathers artists from all origins who work with ink and paper as main media, (de)construct calligraphic geometries, engage in decoding and writing the landscape or experiment with language and gesture. A progressive itinerary looks at how each contemporary literati or letter artist departed from traditional artistic practices to explore the ways of abstraction. The exhibition unfolds in two parts, one devoted to nature and the other to culture, based on the basics of Chinese landscape painting: that a landscape is not to be seen or painted, but read or written. The versatility of nature, mountains and rivers allows Paysage écrit/Ecriture peinte to encompass a range of experiments dealing with the materiality, tools and gesture of writing, the limits of readability or perception, and geometries of ink and water.

Three satellite exhibitions partner with INK BRUSSELS 2019: the art residency ODRADEK, with a collective show curated by Simone Schuiten and Kiran Katara on ink and intercultural dialogue between practitioners of ink on paper East and West, the Garage Cosmos foundation, with a solo exhibit curated by Rosalie Fabre dedicated to Chinese artist Qu Leilei, the ArtWeCare collective, with a concert centered on the materiality of writing and stone, and the Chinese galleries of the Royal Museum of Art and History with Lithic Impressions, a display focused on rubbings, a technique of replication from stone carvings to ink on paper displaying works by the students of Ecole Supérieure des Arts St-Luc and Institut Belge des Hautes Etudes Chinoises in collaboration with Taishan University. 

INK BRUSSELS 2019 team

Lia Wei (coordination), Zhang Qiang (academic supervision), Kiran Katara (La Cambre Horta ULB), Simone Schuiten (ESA St-Luc partner and ODRADEK), Nathalie Vandeperre (MRAH), Vanessa Frangville (EASt/ULB partner and Institut Confucius ULB).

 Institutional Partners Belgium

Université Libre de Bruxelles (La Cambre Horta ULB Architecture, EASt/ULB, Institut Confucius ULB, ISTI ULB), Ecole Supérieure des Arts St-Luc, Royal Museum of Art and History (RMAH), Institut Belge des Hautes Etudes Chinoises (IBHEC), ODRADEK, Garage Cosmos, European Lettering Institute.

 Institutional Partners China

Ink Art Research Centre (四川美院艺术学与水墨高等研究中心), Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (Chongqing), Centre for Contemporary Visual History (当代视觉史高等研究中心), Taishan University (Tai’an), Renmin University of China Department of Archaeology and Museum Studies (Beijing).

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Venice Ink Art Week

April 17 - 20, 2018

 A week-long program of events in Venice, to be held on April 17 through 20, is dedicated to discover new perspectives and trends in the field of Chinese contemporary ink art, bringing the public in direct contact with artists and scholars.

The growing attention to Chinese contemporary ink art requires us to broaden our lens and explore potential contributions of the ink medium in the wider contemporary art scene. The Ink Art Week in Venice is designed to promote public awareness and understanding of Chinese ink art in Italy, offering an opportunity to explore innovative ink art practices and discourses. Through a themed exhibition and a three-day conference including lectures, talks and performances the Ink Art Week responds to the expanded context of production and reception of ink art by revisiting its spatial possibilities, visual expressions and aesthetic principles.

The Ink Art Week starts on Tuesday noon, April 17 at 6:30 p.m. with an ephemeral installation marking the opening of Ink Riders驭墨, a collective exhibition hosted by the Venice Academy of Fine Arts at Magazzino del Sale n° 3. Ink Riders驭墨features artworks by a circle of contemporary Chinese artists, whom each had a role to play in the historical movement of Modern Calligraphy in the last 30 years and in the development of ink art as a new tradition. The 12 artists participating in the exhibition are Gu Gan, Zhang Dawo, Zhang Qiang, Lia Wei, Wang Xiaoming, Yu Li, Dunzi Bin, Fan Bingnan, Liu Gang, Xie Hai, Huang Liang, Ma Kun.

Follow three days of conference hosted by Ca' Foscari University of Venice during which Chinese and European scholars and artists are invited to discuss the theory, practice and market of contemporary ink art.

On April 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m, a day dedicated to theory, speakers will include Chinese and European scholars specialised in the study of ink art and Italian art critics and curators. Another highlight of the Ink Art Week include a performance day centered on the dialogue between ink art and other art forms on April 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. The week will conclude with a full day dedicated to a panel discussion on the role of contemporary ink art in the contemporary art system, on April 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.  

China Mount Tai • Taishan Academy Contemporary Visual History Research Centre and Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Art Theory and Ink Art Research Centre are proud sponsors of the Ink Riders驭墨 exhibition. The event was made possible with support from the Venice Academy of Fine Arts, the Ca' Foscari University of Venice and the Confucius Institute. The event was designed in collaboration with Ink Hub and Hangzhou-based Literati Lab.

University hosts

Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Confucius Institute at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice Academy of Fine Arts

Institutional partners

Taishan Academy Contemporary Visual History Research Centre, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute Art Theory and Ink Art Research Centre, Literati Lab, Ink Hub, BIMOCHi© Art Center of World Association for Chinese Studies, White Horse Lake Visual Arts, Feimo Contemporary Calligraphy

Institutional advisors

Sabrina Rastelli, Giuseppe La Bruna

Academic supervisors

Lia Wei, Zhang Qiang


Elena Macrì, Huang Liang