In the ’70s Fung Ming Chip arrived in New York to explore the East Village art scene. But rather than imitate what was being done there, he turned his attention back to his earlier interest in Chinese calligraphy and seal carving. When he returned to Hong Kong, he developed a distinctive approach to an ancient art form, deconstructing the five basic Chinese scripts and then creating over 100 styles of his own. By using traditional xuan paper hanging scrolls, he brings tradition to life in a powerful way.
Fung, who combines his poetry with brushwork, experiments with his medium. To create his “sand script,” he blew powdered ink across lettering brushed onto the paper with water, as in Numbers (2007) and Wave (2001). In Material Number 747 (2000) built-up layers of “shadow script” give dimension to his characters. In Post Marijuana (2003) his “grass script,” loopy and inconsistent in size and weight, brings an element of humor to his poem.
It’s easy to see the influence of Franz Kline in works such as Wave (2001) and Chan (2007). In both, broad brushstrokes fill the lower half of the scroll, while faint calligraphy fills the rest. But the most striking piece here was Bloom is Not a Bloom (2014), a large scroll with black lettering on a black background and a small red seal carving at the top. The very subtle strokes finally emerge after long viewing, like pebbles at the bottom of a pond.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 85.