Water Dreaming

Expo Ma Hui at Asian Library, Leiden University, 17 April 2018

My feelings about shuimo,
Chinese ink on paper, stem from the days of early childhood on the banks of the Yellow River in Ningxia province. There the symbiosis of yellow earth and streaming water evoked emotions in such overwhelming fashion as to leave me startled and speechless. There is nothing stronger than early memories. No language could describe the intensity of emotion in the child that I was then, alone, far away from my family, in a hostile re-education village during the onslaught of the Cultural Revolution.

Overlooking the outstretching riverbanks from a hilltop I saw fishermen pulling their wooden boats out of the river. They sang age-old songs. I remember in great detail how a long rope from one of the boats was caught by the water flow, it started floating aimlessly, gently, elegantly down the stream that seemed never ending.

This strong impression inspires me to this every day. It is no exaggeration to say that it became part of my soul, forever stimulating my art. After graduation I followed the winding river downstream, from Qinghai to Ningxia and the semi-desert of Inner Mongolia.

Sand and water, nature’s opposite elements, in everlasting harmony. My love of the Northwest is just as durable. It is part of my identity, a strong bond which is not superficial but resides deep inside of me. During a stay of 25 years in Europe this spiritual link has not diminished but has become even stronger.

Life is a circle. You go back to where you came from. This stream of consciousness, an awareness of the natural course of things in life has guided my love of nature and my love for water and ink on paper. Through trial and error, experimenting with these three is a constant adventure. I fill my days in Europe with shuimo that to me represents the essence of Chinese culture. Like a bridge between body and soul, between East and West. Working with shuimo is like soul searching while floating down a river. From a very young age these feelings have shaped the core of my existence. My father, a renowned calligrapher, taught me natural grace and elegance, dancing with brush and ink on paper. It becomes part of you. As if ink flows like blood through your veins and into your heart. I already knew how to work with ink, water and paper before I was born, as it were. Shuimo manifests itself over and over again without ever being boring. It is my private language, a way to express my moods, to empty my mind, confiding my thoughts and innermost feelings to paper.