Modern landscapes

| Lisa Kao 21 Jun 2019

in Macau

In Chinese history, ink is often used in shan shui (literally mountain water, meaning landscape) paintings to capture the beauty of nature.

Jennifer Ma and Yang Yongliang are breaking the traditional boundaries.

Presenting their work in Hua Yuan, meaning the root of Chinese, at Macau MGM Cotai, the two artists are transforming traditional ink paintings in a modern and immersive way.

Walking by the hotel lobby, the paper garden comes into view. Hollow papers are cut into the shape of grass, and arranged in a manner that resembles a garden in the shan shui paintings. Abstract butterflies add to the atmosphere.

Its creator, Ma, welcomes everyone to walk in the paper sculpture garden named A Metamorphosis: No End to End.

"Ink wash paintings are usually on paper. I have turned it three dimensional so people can walk inside," she said.

Black and white, which the artist usually uses, appears in the garden but Ma surprises audiences with pops of color.

"Black is fascinating. I have always used black and white but MGM asked me to think about colors. It was hard but I came up with colors from the prism," said Ma.

She looked to the exhibition space for inspiration on the colors.

The Spectacle is the largest free-span self-supporting gridshell glazed roof, allowing sunlight into the spaces.

"When ink is exposed under the sun, it will appear like a prism. I always think that color is beautiful, so I tried to capture it in the garden."

The garden consumed about 15,000 square meters of paper.

"The paper is laser cut with machines to at most one-by-two meters, and are hand sewn together to form the whole garden," said Ma.

Her team of more than 30 people took five months to complete the paper work.

"If we count the people participating in design or hanging, nearly 100 joined in."

She said the art piece amazed the people who worked on it, and she hoped to touch audiences as well.

In the theater is Yang's Journey to the Dark II. What appears to be a large-scale shan shui painting is projected on a 900-square-meter curved screen.

From a distance, it seems to be a classic Song-dynasty landscape painting. But when you step closer, you find modern architecture making up a traditional landscape, with movement.

To create the impression of a shan shui painting, Yang used more than 40 video clips he shot in Macau. "The old houses are replaced with skyscrapers and trees are replaced by cranes," he said.

Presenting his work on the 4K screen the size of three tennis courts, Yang is more than excited.

"I was shocked by how big the screen was when I first saw it," he said. "And I am thrilled as my work will be presented on the high-resolution screen."

Having studied shan shui paintings as a youngster and learning digital technology at university, it is not the first time Yang has created a landscape painting with technology.

For this one, he went to many places in Macau to shoot. "I walked a lot and spent around eight days shooting all the clips," he said.

A Metamorphosis: No End to End is on show 24 hours a day until September 3, while Journey to the Dark II can be seen from 12pm to 3pm on weekdays and 11am to 3pm at weekends until August 3.

Free tours in Cantonese, Mandarin and English are held daily to introduce the two Hua Yuan pieces as well as other art in the hotel.

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