Rice paper or bamboo paper is known in Chinese as the Xuan paper, especially used in calligraphy and painting.

Renowned for being soft and fine textured, it is not, as you might think, made from rice or bamboo but from the bark of wingceltis, mulberry and rice straw. There are two kinds Xuan paper — Sheng Xuan (rice-paper without alum) and Shu Xuan (rice-paper with alum).

In fact, Sheng Xuan was widely used by Chinese ink-wash painters after the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) because of its instant soaking of ink brush strokes. However Chinese Japanese artist Zhuo Min selects the rarely used Shu Xuan for his creations.

The exhibition, “Road of Zhuo Min’s Ink-wash Painting and Rock-Color Painting,” on display at the art museum of Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute, features Zhuo’s ink-wash paintings and rock-color paintings over the years.

Born in 1958 in Shanghai, Zhuo received early art training in traditional ink-wash painting, sketches and carvings at a middle school affiliated to a local arts and crafts factory. He worked at the factory before he furthered his study in art in Japan in 1993.

It was in Japan that Zhuo started to explore the visual effect of different rock-colors (a mixture of mineral colors) on Shu Xuan paper.

Originating from the mural and silk paintings of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in China, rock-color painting in Japan actually grew more when it referred to the perspective and hues from the West after the Meiji Restoration.

Different from the traditional Chinese realistic painting that is usually created step-by-step with a visual image already in an artist’s mind, rock-color painting is quite wayward and spontaneous through the overlapping of different colors and textures on rice-paper. Thanks to the advantage of the color fastness and tolerability of Shu Xuan, it makes the whole complicated process possible on the paper.

“It is unique for Zhuo to replace the familiar Sheng Xuan with Shu Xuan paper,” says Shang Hui, one of China’s top art critics.

“The combination of rock-colors and Shu Xuan paper alter the stereotyped elements in traditional ink-wash paintings, rendering a fresh outlook in his artworks.”

Exhibition Info

Date: Through November 4 (closed on Mondays), 10am-4pm

Venue: Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute

Address: 111 Jinzhu Rd