Mr Monkey sees Infinite Strokes: Chinese Ink Painting at the CAC, 19th August
Mr Monkey travelled into Manchester for the preview night of Infinite Strokes: Chinese Ink Painting, the latest exhibition at the Chinese Arts Centre. Mr Monkey was looking forward to seeing some traditional ink painting and calligraphy by Mary Tang and Cathy Wu.
When Mr Monkey got to the CAC he found one of the largest crowds he'd ever seen at a preview.
While he mingled and looked at the ink paintings Mr Monkey listened to Semay Wu, Seaming To and Paddy Steer playing an interesting selection of instruments.
Mr Monkey listened carefully to the introductory talk and learned that Cathy Wu and Mary Tang have both been involved with the Centre over the last 20 years, working as workshop leaders, but haven't had an exhibition of their own there before.
Chinese calligraphy has four major scripts - Clerical, Traditional, Running and Grass - though it's not too easy for a young monkey to tell the difference unless someone points and explains the differences slowly. Running and Grass are less constrained, faster to write, and have more visible brushstrokes.
Cathy Wu has used all four styles in her calligraphy for Infinite Strokes, sometimes mixing more than one style in one piece. Running and Grass scripts go well together, and are chosen for artistic impact. For added effect, some of the calligraphy has flower painting by Cathy Wu in the background.
Mr Monkey couldn't read the calligraphy - he suspects the long texts are poems - but he admired the striking appearance of the characters.
Traditional Chinese ink painting, Guó huà ('national painting'), is divided into Figure-and-landscape painting and Bird-and-flower painting (which seems to include anything that isn't a human or a landscape).
For Infinite Strokes Mary Tang has concentrated on bird-and-flower painting with a collection of animals and sea-life.
Mr Monkey found the combination of detailed plant and animal life on a plain white background extremely effective.
He really liked her pictures of lively squirrels, and was particularly impressed by the delicate brushwork of the creatures' fur and by the localness of the animals (Mr Monkey thinks too many nature artists are obsessed by red squirrels).
Infinite Strokes: Chinese Ink Painting runs until September 18th.