About me – The work of Ma Hui

Chinese Dutch artist Ma Hui once said, “I already knew how to work with ink, water and paper before I was born…”, and in her case, it is no exaggeration. Born in 1958 to a family of a high-ranking Party official, her father a renowned calligrapher, the practice of shuimo was, as she says, like ink flowing through her veins and in her heart.

If her love of shuimo was inherited from her father, then it was invigorated by her experiences in a re-education village in the countryside of the Ningxia province: the yellow clay of the riverbanks, the dark swirling waters, the songs of the fishermen as they tended their boats, and the long ropes floating aimlessly on the currents and eddies.

The memories, undiminished by her thirty years living in Europe, continue to inspire her practice, perhaps more strongly because of those intervening years, as if often the case with first generation émigrés, who feel the love of their home soil most deeply for its absence. Shuimo has become the private language of her soul, the bridge that connects her to home.

Nevertheless, her time in Europe has not been without its influence, reducing her colour palette to the simplicity of red and black, and introducing elements of collage, as well as her use of contemporary coated papers, for their saturation and shine, their highlighting of the nature of ink.

While life in Europe has allowed her the distance to develop her shuimo in isolation from the trends in experimental ink practice in China, it nonetheless is her daily practice that connects her forever to the river of her childhood.

Curator Hutch Wilco