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Historic & Contemporary Methods in Ink Painting

is a 5-part video series proudly presented by Neptune Court Studio

and warmly supported by the National Arts Council.

Video 1: A Brief Overview - History of Chinese Ink Painting and Ink Art in Singapore

This is the first video of the 5-part series: Historic & Contemporary Methods in Ink Painting. What are some of the key moments in the history of Chinese painting? Who were the prominent innovators that shaped its development, and has this rich history been reflected in ink artworks done by Singaporean artists today? Find out more as we explore these questions through this series of short films and activities.

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Activity: Discover ink collections in Singapore


Maintaining a portfolio of art and artists you admire is crucial to the study of any form of art. The National Collection, which consists of art and artefacts that are displayed by many Singaporean museums, is a treasure trove of such art. You may also visit the National Gallery Singapore or Asian Civilisations Museum (free of charge for citizens and PRs) to have a look at the actual paintings!


Using or, please locate your favourite paintings which satisfy the criteria below (clue: set the search category to ‘paintings’ to see all paintings within the National Collection).


Please compile an image each of an ink painting that was completed by:

  1. A dynastic (pre-1911) Chinese artist

  2. A Chinese artist after 1911

  3. A Singaporean artist who painted in a relatively traditional manner

  4. A Singaporean artist who used ink in an unexpected manner


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Further Reading


  • Michael Sullivan. , 6th edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2018.

  • Marco Hsu. , translated edition. Singapore: Millennium Books, 1999.

  • Yeo Mang Thong. , translated edition. Singapore: National Gallery Singapore, 2019.

  • Lee Chor Lin. ‘Patrons of the Arts: Art Making and Collecting in Singapore in Times of War and Upheavals, 1900-1980’. In . Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, 2019.

Video 2: Chinese Ink Materials and Tools

Brushes, paper, ink, and paint...there are so many types of ink materials and tools within each of these categories! Get a comprehensive overview of the variety of options available on the market and learn about their properties in this video. Ever wondered how mineral pigments transform into paint? Jump to 2:30 and learn to do this on your own!

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Further Reading


Video 3: Linear Rhythm and Ink Tones

In this third video of the short film series -- History of Chinese ink painting and ink art in Singapore -- we visit 2 of the most fundamental and important techniques used in Chinese ink paintings: linear rhythm (线条) and ink tones (墨韵).


The long history of linear rhythm is traced through the development of the ancient baimiao (白描 or "plain drawing") technique since the Northern Song dynasty and continues to be relevant in contemporary ink artworks by Singaporean artists such as Tan Kian Por. Ink tone, or the control of ink and water, is yet another technical mastery required of any painter who wishes to achieve free-spirited expressions in ink art. Find out how the experts converse and innovate with the ink medium in their creations, using techniques such as wet-on-wet to achieve unexpected effects. Artists featured in this video include dynastic Chinese painters Su Shi (Su Dongpo), Li Gonglin and Liang Kai, contemporary Singaporean artists Tan Kian Por and Henri Chen Kezhan.

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Further Reading


  • Fong Wen. . New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. ntury)

  • Tan Kian Por (陈建坡). Cheng Huai Wei Xiang (澄怀味象: 陈建坡书画篆刻集). Singapore: Chixiaxuan, 2000.

  • Henri Chen Kezhan. Singapore: Plum Blossoms Gallery, 2001.

  • Xie He 谢赫, ‘Six Principles of Chinese Painting’ 绘画六法.

  • (Xie He’s idea of the ‘bone method’ is essential in understanding the continuity between Li Gonglin and Tan Kian Por’s linear expressions. A simple summary can be found here.

Video 4: Perspective and Brushstrokes

How does Chinese landscape painting differ from Western Realism? What are some of the unique brushstrokes and effects that make Chinese ink painting a unique genre of its own?


In this video, find out how painters from the 11th century till today work with and variate on the same basic methods in their ink artworks to express their responses towards their larger community.


Artists featured in this video include dynastic Chinese painters Guo Xi and Xia Gui, contemporary Singaporean artists Hong Sek Chern and Chua Ek Kay.

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Further Reading

  • Michael Sullivan. . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979.

  • Ink Expressions: Featuring 9 Singapore Artists’ Works in Ink. Singapore: Art Collectors’ Group, 2011.

  • Chua Ek Kay. . Singapore: National Gallery Singapore, 2015.

Video 5: Bird-and-Flower genre

The subject of Bird-and-flower, or huaniao (花鸟), is one of the most classic genres in Chinese painting, established as early as the Han Dynasty. Throughout history, Chinese painters have used animals and plants as symbols for meaning and metaphors for their emotions.


Through this video, find out how painters reimagined the huaniao genre and used it cleverly to express themselves, rather than to mimic nature.


Artists featured in this video include dynastic Chinese painters Ren Bonian (Ren Yi), modern/contemporary Singaporean artists Chen Wen Hsi and Tay Bak Chiang.

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Editor's note: Image caption correction for 2:36 "Black Egrets" by Chen Wen Hsi, Undated. Ink and colour on paper, 86.1 x 68.4 cm. Collection of National Gallery Singapore.

3:01 "Herons" by Chen Wen Hsi, 1990. Ink and colour on paper, 157 x 297 cm. Collection of Singapore Art Museum

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Further Reading

  • Michael Sullivan. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996.

  • Chen Wen Hsi. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2006.

  • Tay Bak Chiang. Hong Kong: Art Projects Gallery, 2014

  • Tay Bak Chiang. Singapore: iPreciation, 2014

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