Ink and Wash Painting – The History
The ancient art of Ink and Wash Painting is one of the most captivating Brush Painting forms from East Asia, Chinese to be precise. Also called as ‘Shui-Mo Hua’ in Chinese, ‘Sumukhwa’ in Korean, & Wash Painting in English, this Far East Painting style is commonly referred by its Japanese name ‘Sumi-e Art.’ A famous poet and painter called Wang Wei (701-61), of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), invented this incredible art form in the 8th century. Wang Wei generally painted landscapes, using a writing brush loaded with bright colors. By the 10th century, under the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Ink and Wash Painting evolved and the artists abandoned the use of color. The monochromatic depictions carried subjects like flora and fauna, along with the various kinds of landscapes. Ink and Wash Painting gained major prominence during the rule of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). By the 14th century, this art had found a coveted place in Korea and Japan.
Ink and Wash or Sumi-e Paintings is usually done on silk or Xuan paper. Xuan paper is a very fine quality soft paper, which stays unspoiled for centuries. This makes it easy to maintain the paintings. Ink and Wash Paintings were created in the varying shades of black, with the help of a special ink drawn from carbon sticks. This ink is the same, which is used for East Asian Calligraphy. The carbon or ink stick is made of pine or oil soot, in combination with animal glue. To derive the ink, the Sumi-e painters grind the ink stick on an ink stone, while mixing it with water to attain the ink with the right consistency of dense or dilute color. Special Chinese writing brushes with tapered fine tip are employed, as this Far East Painting style is all about fine lines & delicate contours. These brushes are made using bamboo and animal hair. Sumi-e art Paintings are never crammed with unnecessary detail. They stay serene yet emotive, and spoke magnitudes about the subject with Minimalist portrayals. The art form requires real skillful artistry, since the artist has to create the drawing with a single brush stroke. The ink cannot be rubbed or edited, eliminating any room for errors. It takes years of diligent practice for the artists to master this art form. An expert Sumi-e artist is capable of creating several hues of black in a single brush stroke, ranging from deep dark black to silvery hues.
Ink and Wash Painting was not merely a representational art form, but its essence was to capture the very soul of the subject. This graceful genre is a great symbol of the Chinese Contemporary Art. The simple yet elegant art form of Ink and Wash Painting has continued to fascinate and inspire Modern Artists around the world.