In 2020, a wooden seal created by Fung Ming Chip, originally in the collection of Asian American Arts Centre, has recently entered the collection of Princeton University Art Museum. This seal, Untitled (ca. 1985) was created before Fung turned to calligraphy in 1996. The characters inscribed on the seal are “飞” and “叔”. Fung transformed the two Chinese characters into pictograms, inviting viewers to approach the seal as the material support of a pictorial space. In doing so, he turned seal into a medium independent from its traditional usage.
Fung believes that the use of seals in calligraphy and painting has restricted the expressive potential of seal carving. In his seals, he invented new ways of writing Chinese characters, changing them into abstract symbols. The compositions constituted of these symbols prompt viewers to associate the pictorial space with meanings freely. For some pieces, Fung significantly enlarged the size of seals, making it impossible for them to be engraved on paper. These all helped Fung turn seal carving into a medium essentially different from calligraphy.
Fung Ming Chip began seal carving in 1975. He started to explore the possibility of making seal a medium independent from its functional use in 1982. In 1984, he had his first solo exhibition of seal carving in Uptown New York. In 1986, his second solo show of seal carving was held at the Asian American Arts Center in New York. Mr. Wang Fangyu wrote an article for the exhibition (????: Wang Fangyu— “The Seals of Fung Ming-Chip”). Since 1996, Fung has devoted most of his energy to calligraphy. By inventing new scripts, he explored multiple aspects of calligraphy, including space, time, concepts, and lines.
“The most revolutionary idea that Fung has introduced to seal carving is to make it an art form independent of painting and calligraphy. His large seal boards, painted in white and red and measuring up to 5 to 7 feet, are hung as individual pieces of art.He contends in fact, that any seal imprint, large or small, can be framed as in independent work. In the world of Chinese art, innovators are needed, especially in those fields that have been most tightly bound by traditional principles. For seal carving and calligraphy, the time has come to emancipate these art forms.”
——Wang Fangyu “The Seals of Ming-Chip Fung”