The continual process of renewal and invigoration of Chinese ink painting in the 20th and 21st centuries illustrates the
persistence of the deep-rooted Chinese tradition that has confronted enormous cultural challenges from the West… I believe
ink and paper are still very good materials which I can incorporate new ideas and techniques without sacrificing my
cultural identity as a 21st century Chinese artist.’ Chun-yi Lee
Michael Goedhuis presents a major exhibition of the new works of the Chinese ink painter Chun-yi
Chun-yi Lee was born in Taiwan in 1965. His family relocated to Hong Kong in 1970, where Lee
attended university, graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1988. Lee subsequently
took an MFA from Tunghai University in Taiwan, and more recently, he earned a Ph.D. in Art History
from Arizona State University, writing his dissertation on Daoism and the Ming dynasty painter Shen
The seeds of Chun-yi Lee’s innovative paintings lie in work pioneered by his teacher and mentor, Liu
Guosong. In the late 1950s, Liu rebelled against Taiwan’s conservative political and cultural
atmosphere. A founder of the Fifth Moon Group, Liu painted semi-abstract ink landscapes that
explored possible modern iterations of traditional Chinese painting.
Portraits, landscapes, and flowers are among the subjects of Chun-yi Lee’s works. Traditional Chinese
painting relies on three elements: brush, ink, paper. Chun-yi Lee uses two of them – ink and paper –
but dispenses with the brush, which is replaced by a process and technique of Lee’s own devising.
Inspired by engraved stone steles and ink rubbings from antiquity, Lee uses carved squares of cork, to
build up the painted surface of his works. The forms of Lee’s work evoke the past, but the method is
unique to him. His flower paintings combine a traditional genre with a modern idiom: photorealism.
The grid, precision, and intensely realized image recall the portraits of Chuck Close and other
Chun-yi Lee demonstrates that contemporary Chinese art can acknowledge the past as a visual and
intellectual source for creativity. His exploration of new techniques and mediums, the juxtapositions of
past and present, text and image, realism and abstraction herald a new direction for ink painting.