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Journal | A Modernity That Returns to the Depth of Traditional Spirit | INK NOW 水墨現場
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A Modernity That Returns to the Depth of Traditional Spirit

The debut of INK NOW Art Journal was born with our vision of self-media and "More than Art Fair, More than Ink". Apart from issuing paper version of INK NOW Art Journal, we will run our own website -, a multifaceted art platform combines academic exchanges, collector's engagement, curated online exhibitions, and art journal. Integrating online and offline resources to promote ink art and ink-related culture.


The question of “modernity” has been a century-old historic thesis regarding Chinese society and culture. How to find creative paths for transforming the modernity of eastern tradition and culture have been a constant subject of investigation of Chinese men of letters; views toward the problem remain divergent. Some hold “modernity” is a creation of the West and cannot be reproduced while others think Chinese people absolutely can create their own “modernity”. “Modernity” precisely means breaking, examining and re-evaluating all existing traditional values, moral criteria and principles of behaviour on a scientific and rational basis, which definitely liberates the individual to a great extent. Breaking traditional values and rules lead to the liberation of everyone’s creative energy. Henceforth, all values and tenets are no longer correct. The conclusion of accepting something or not has to be approved by “one’s” brain and feeling.

Zhi-Bai LIU Seal of Golden San Ink on Paper 68cm x 134.6 cm 2001 (KUART)

While problems caused by western modernity continue to manifest―including pollution, alienation imposed by technology, human crisis resulted from excessive pursuit of efficiency and materialist thinking, etc., Chinese intelligentsia and artists continue to reflect on and correct their miscomprehension and bias related to the question of modernity. With China’s voice becoming more relevant internationally, Chinese artists seek to voice their opinions in an attempt to exceed merely an eastern version of western modernity but to complement and correct the question of western modernity.

Following the development of globalization and urbanization in recent years, modes of life in metropolises worldwide have become similar. Diversity and locality of culture and lifestyle have become more important in the eyes of insightful persons. As we move farther away we start to rediscover our humanity and the beautiful sides of cultures and traditions once cast aside and almost forgotten. If western culture forever seeks the strength of man’s power and transformation of the world and nature, eastern culture is a lasting call to follow the rules of nature and our relationship withal.

Zhi-Bai LIU Mountain and Water Fun Ink on Paper 68.6 x 137.5 cm 2000 (KUART)

In regarding ourselves as being at the intersection of the contemporary and the traditional and absorbing these unique values we are no longer struggling along a one-way path. Taking a step backwards we return to our history where there are also abundant long-lost values and spirits waiting to be awakened. Such “return of the prodigal son” does not prove the original betrayal and departure to be erroneous. Rather, relations have been reversed during the interval between parting and return; “tradition” is no longer an external discipline in opposition to man’s freedom but precisely the required spiritual resource and cultural means in confronting the status quo.

Today, many artists began to return to the depth of traditional culture and spirit, and draw from the source of their own culture the motivation and possibilities of their current development and creation. Rather than transient “revival” or “following the trend,” this is the individual choice of life made by many Chinese contemporary artists in facing the status quo, amounting to a contemporary cultural phenomenon. Instead of repeating certain patterns of traditional culture and art, they make individualized interpretation and re-interpretation through experience and perspective of a contemporary man. Some of them make more traditional art while others create more contemporary art, yet they all surpass the restrictive view of the distinct dichotomy and opposition between the traditional and the modern; incarnating the so-called “another modernity,” surpassing merely an “Eastern version of western modernity.” It seems the main difference between the two is that the former already departs from merely an aspect of art per-se and becomes an individual’s choice of life in confronting the crisis of modernity.

Zhi-Bai LIU Natural landscape Ink on Paper 68.6 x 137.5 cm 2001 (KUART)

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