UCCA - Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing

ULLENS CENTRE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART | 798 Art District, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Lu
100015 Beijing

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UCCA is proud to present a major new work by the artist Jennifer Wen Ma. “Hanging Garden in Ink” is a tableau vivant of live plants painted intensely black with Chinese ink. Suspended in The Nave, a transversal, semi-public space where UCCA typically presents new site-specific commissions, the piece is scaled at twenty meters long, three meters wide and eight meters high. Abundantly alive with plants and trees, the lower half of the tableau consists of plants that mirror the top half of the installation, creating the effect of a garden reflected on water, or a three-dimensional Rorschach test drawing.

Jennifer Wen Ma’s work references the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Legend holds that King Nebuchadnezzar II created the garden on the walls of his palace as a gift for his wife, who longed for the green mountains of her homeland. “The work is a meditation on the illusion of material wealth, declarations of love, and the power of nature and myth, among other things,” the artist has noted.

The installation is also an extension of the Beijing-born, New York-based artist’s exploration of a contemporary approach to mo, Chinese ink, an organic material that has been the main medium of expression and communication for centuries in East Asia. It embodies all colors, emulates all forms, and gives meaning to brush strokes and aesthetic achievements. Concurrently, black is the absence of all colors of light, or an exhaustive combination of multiple colors of pigment. It is a powerful symbol of void and muteness.

Black ink dominates the artistic vocabulary of this work. Rather than painting a landscape on paper, Ma applies the ink directly to the plants in three-dimensional space. Time then acts as the fourth dimension, altering the work over the course of its viewing period. The plants give evidence of the perseverance and resilience of life throughout the exhibition period by continuing to grow, showing tender green shoots through the black. The plants’ growth refers both conceptually and formally to the significant “time” component in the Chinese ink painting practice. Here, Ma poetically transcends the traditional legacy of ink, weaving poignantly between history, art, and culture.

The programs in conjunction with the exhibition will include an artist talk on April 22 as part of the smart Artists’ Talks series. On the same day, Ma will lead an interactive children’s workshop focusing on the essential qualities of organic materials and traditional mediums. UCCASTORE will also feature a series of collaborations designed with the New York-based fashion line EKO-LAB.

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Jennifer Wen Ma
Hanging Garden In Ink