Ink Art, which encompasses both calligraphy and ink wash painting, is deeply rooted in Chinese culture and tradition. It has developed and evolved over a period of more than a thousand years and is still vibrant in the art practice of contemporary artists. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), the literati, who were highly educated scholars, praised unity between the three art forms of painting, poetry and calligraphy, referred to as the Three Perfections.

Although the Western and Eastern philosophies are drastically different, with the humanist perspective in the West, and the Buddhist and Taoist influences on Chinese aesthetics in the East, there is more in common between the literati painters and the Renaissance artists than it is usually acknowledged. As opposed to craftsmen, the literati had the freedom to experiment new styles. Likewise, it is during the Italian Renaissance that the intellectual nature of the work of the artist was proclaimed.

Hélène Le Chatelier, Cambrure 3, 2015, Chinese Ink on Paper, 100cm X 67cm
Hélène Le Chatelier, Cambrure 3, 2015, Chinese Ink on Paper, 100cm X 67cm

Beyond the East/West dichotomy, this exhibition strives to highlight some bridging elements between Eastern and Western ink wash painting as they appear in the work of Hélène Le Chatelier, a French artist living and working in Singapore.

Francois Cheng, a Chinese-born French academician, poet and calligrapher, defines calligraphy as “a seismograph of our inner truth.” This definition applies to Hélène’s use of ink wash as her artworks are outward reflections of our inner emotions. Using her skills and technique inherited from the Italian Renaissance and faithful to the Western aesthetics, Hélène successfully reaches the ultimate goal of many artists: going beyond the so-called East/West dichotomy.

Hélène Le Chatelier, Courbure 3, 2015, Chinese Ink on Paper, 100cm X 67cm
Hélène Le Chatelier, Courbure 3, 2015, Chinese Ink on Paper, 100cm X 67cm

Hélène Le Chatelier’s art practice relies on silhouettes and traces, which allude to emotions, and are used to keep memories alive. Her ink paintings are created to convey emotions. As she explains, her artistic practice is a journey: “one moves forward, one explores, one turns back, one gets deeper, one redefines, one looks deeper into all the aspects of a subject matter.”

Hélène is obviously more interested in the journey itself than the destination, and the techniques she uses are part of this journey. Drawing from live models, Hélène uses ink on paper technique to give fluidity to her structured compositions and transform movements and curves into abstraction. Indeed, the dilution of ink in water transforms the precise contours into abstract forms and gives freedom of interpretation to the viewers. The artworks subtly mix deep reflection and intuition, controlled brushstrokes and organic creation.

Hélène is interested in the relation between our souls and our bodies, in the stories that we can read on human bodies but even more in the untold stories that we have to discover, although they may be deliberately or undeliberately unformulated.

Hélène Le Chatelier, Buste femme 3, 2015, Clay, Newspaper & Chinese Ink, H 18,5cm
Hélène Le Chatelier, Buste femme 3, 2015, Clay, Newspaper & Chinese Ink, H 18,5cm

Intimacy, Hélène’s latest series, strives to depict the most intimate and private parts that we keep deep within our inner self and cannot be expressed with words. Abstraction allows us to talk about what we cannot properly express, what is involuntarily said by our bodies, things that we would like to keep secret or do not wish to express, what we do not manage to formulate or that we do not even try saying.

Intimacy is not a new step in Hélène’s artistic journey, on the contrary it goes deeper than her previous series, Naked Memories, and invites the viewer to look closer at her subject matter. By zooming in on her subject matter, the artist encourages the viewer to forget about the meaning of the form, in order to get into its sensual and emotional qualities. In contrast with Naked Memories where the form was more apparent, we are no longer looking at human bodies but at the soft texture of skin, or the violence of passions. The abstract vision that we get when zooming in on objects or people, reminds us that the closer we get to anything or to anyone, the more mysterious they become. The artist invites the viewers to abandon their usual points of reference, to accept the cloud of the unknown and to enter a realm of feelings and emotions; no intimacy will ever allow us to decipher the mystery of the souls.

A collaboration between White Space Gallery & Intersections
Curated by Intersections

White Space Gallery, 20 November to 6 December 2015.

Whitespace Gallery
One Sala Daeng 1
Rama 4 Road, Khet Bangrak
Bangkok 10500 Thailand

Wednesday to Sunday 12.00 – 18.00
Monday – Tuesday by appointment
T   + 66 8 1699 5298
E   [email protected]

Opening: 19 November 2015

The artist and curator talk: 27 November 2015 during the Galleries’ night.