• Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang standing in front of their collaboration series

    Coinciding with Asia Week New York 2022, FQM is pleased to present “Ink Affinities 墨缘: The Collaborative Works of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney." Chang and Cherney's thirteen-year collaboration has challenged aesthetic and cultural boundaries and propelled the artists to the forefront of the Contemporary Ink Art movement. Ink Affinities, the first solo exhibition in New York to showcase the combined mediums of Chinese landscape painting and photography, reveals Chang and Cherney’s power to collapse cultural binaries by bridging Eastern and Western aesthetics. The exhibition focuses on twenty-one of the artists’ most recent works produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The show opens on March 18th and continues through May 7th, 2022. Fu Qiumeng Fine Art is located on the ground floor, at 65 East 80th Street in Manhattan, New York City. Regular opening hours are from Tuesday through Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. In celebration of Asia Week, we will also open on Sunday, March 20th, and Monday, March 21st. 

  • Profile photo of Arnold Chang working on his landscape painting

    “It is nice to do something with somebody towards a common goal, and the fact that we’re coming at it from a different angle makes it workable. The collaborative work is cross-cultural and cross-medium. I am just thinking about the fact that the thing we have most in common with photography and with ink painting is grayness. Nothing is black and white. It’s all just a range of subtle nuances of gray, just like life.” — Arnold Chang

  • Michael Cherney is a Jewish-American photographer who has spent most of his adult life in China. Arnold Chang is a Chinese-American ink painter of Chinese and Scottish ancestry who lives in New Jersey. While both artists come from starkly different cultural traditions, each is deeply concerned with the history of Chinese visual culture and drawn to create works rooted in the centuries-old tradition of Chinese painting. 


    Chang and Cherney began collaborating in 2009. Their work blurs the distinctions between photography and painting by harnessing the similarities between film grains and ink dots. This new series, neither solely photographs nor paintings but a dialogue between two artists, working in different media, embraces and reaffirms the classical aesthetics of Chinese landscape art while challenging the public's definition of shuimo 水墨 (“ink painting”).


    Detail of Da Ming Mountain Study 大明山草稿 #2, 2021
  • detail of Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang's collaboration artwork, featuring a small section of photograph captured by Michael's lens and peripheral landscape painted by Arnold's brushes

    Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, Da Ming Mountain Study 大明山草稿 #2, 2021, photography and ink on xuan paper mounted on paper, 29 1/2 x 24 in (74.9 x 61 cm)

    The creative process begins with Cherney, who treks across China’s vast landscape to access sites immortalized by China’s classical landscape painters. Like the historical artists he references, Cherney works with ‘traditional’ equipment and materials. But rather than ink and brush, his tools are a Leica camera and monochrome 35 mm film. Using this earlier form of photographic technology forces him to wait until the film is developed before seeing the results. After processing the negatives, he scrutinizes each with a loupe, searching for details that warrant further exploration, and scans those excerpts. The process often reveals surprising details that passed unnoticed when he pressed the shutter. The technique, which Cherney terms "secondary memory," is perhaps best described as an editorial method of discovering elemental visual forms; those small yet significant phenomena so easily overlooked. After identifying the desired details, he crops the photographs and prints these “excerpts” onto xuan paper using pigment ink. This allows the images to be handled and mounted in the same way as traditional ink paintings. Cherney then ships the mounted images, halfway around the world, to Arnold Chang’s New Jersey studio.

  • detail of Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang's collaboration artwork, featuring a small section of colored photograph captured by Michael's lens and peripheral landscape painted by Arnold's brushes
    Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, Mount Hua 華山 #2, 2018, photography and ink on xuan paper mounted on paper, 24 x 39 in (61 x 99.1 cm)

    By contrast, Arnold Chang works in the opposite direction. After receiving Cherney’s carefully edited excerpts, Chang creatively expands each detail with carefully chosen and sometimes novel brushwork until he achieves a harmonious composition. Key to this process is Chang’s years of landscape painting training and his corollary skill at identifying Cunfa, or “texture strokes.” Classical Chinese painters developed the Cunfa system to depict details of the natural world, particularly the distinctive features of rocks and trees. Specific brushwork techniques were formally associated with particular textures, eventually becoming a stylistic schema that the well-informed viewer might recognize, such as a “Mi-Fu” or a “Li Tang axe-cut stroke.” But rather than imitating these granular textural patterns, Chang employs complementary brushwork and sometimes develops unique techniques such as salt-painting, to respond to each excerpt. The result is a rather witty visual conversation between two diaspora artists, living on opposite sides of the planet and working in different media, who share a deep interest in traditional Chinese history and culture and a common framework of art historical references.

  • Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, After Xiao Yuncong 仿萧云从, 2019, photography and ink on xuan paper mounted on paper, 24 x 55 in (139.7 x 61 cm)
  • Each collaborative work that Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney create is unique. Some appear as an homage to the brushwork of the old masters of Chinese art history. Others are more experimental, exploring variations in Eastern and Western painting techniques and perspectives and a range of forms of artistic production and reproduction. 


    As two American-born artists living and working in parallel diaspora communities, Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney are simultaneously "outsiders" and "insiders" to both the American and Chinese art worlds. Perhaps a reflection of their personal struggles to reconcile identity and ethnicity, their collaborative work is a study in achieving balance; between the East and the West, the modern and the traditional, the natural and the abstract, and the original and the reproduced. By engaging these seemingly contradictory positions, Chang and Cherney invite their viewers to do the same. They invite us to transcend the historical limitations placed on what constitutes and who produces “Chinese” and “American” art and to discover a more nuanced and global perspective, where notions of being and belonging are fundamentally fluid. 


    Chang and Cherney’s collaborations have been exhibited internationally, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, the Crow Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the UC Santa Barbara Art, Design, and Architecture Museum. 

  • Detail of Landscape After Wang Jiqian #2, 2021
  • detail of Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang's collaboration artwork, featuring a small fraction of photograph captured by Michael's lens and peripheral landscape painted by Arnold's brushes

    Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, Landscape After Wang Jiqian #2, 2021, photography and ink on xuan paper mount on paper, 24 x 56 in (61 x 142.2 cm)

    Landscape After Wang Jiqian #2:

    Around ten years ago, when Michael Cherney was photographing the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, he encountered a distant view of the Nianbaoyuze Mountains along the border of Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. The view inspired him to return in 2019 to study the mountains in detail. The work’s photographic excerpt is a detail of rock and snow. The high contrast of dark shadows and white highlights reminded Chang of the work of his teacher C. C. Wang. He used Wang’s innovative technique of combining imprinted textures with traditional brushwork to complete the composition as an homage to his mentor.

  • detail of Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang's collaboration artwork, featuring two small fractions of photograph captured by Michael's lens and peripheral landscape painted by Arnold's brushes

    Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, Mountain Depths 山深 #1, 2019, photography and ink on xuan paper mount on paper, 18 x 48 in (45.7 x 121.9 cm)

    Mountain Depths #1:

    The photographic excerpt depicts a craggy landscape in far western China. Rather than cropping the photograph to result in a rectangular section, Michael Cherney selected a polygonal shape to evoke a sense of depth prior to Arnold Chang’s expansion upon it. Chang uses traditional brushwork to create an imaginary world that expands and harmonizes with the unusual shape of the photograph. 

  • Detail of Mountain Depths #1
  • AFTER GUO XI’S DEEP VALLEY: The photographic excerpt depicts abstract details of a mountain face in the Kunlun Mountains, not far from Kashgar. In his decades of travel photography, the Kunlun Mountains were the only location where Michael Cherney encountered this particular formation and texture of stone. The pattern of interlocking fissures depicted in the photo is reminiscent of a work in the Shanghai Museum by the Song dynasty painter Guo Xi. Chang referenced the painting by emulating Guo’s brush method and compositional structure.


    SALT BLOOM: The “salt print” was one of the earliest processes for producing positive photographic images on standard drawing paper. The photographer wet the paper sheet with a salt solution to make it light-sensitive. In homage to this process, Michael Cherney photographed salt crystals dissolving under a microscope. He enlarged the image details to highlight the crystals’ unique structure. When printed, the crystal's fractal qualities are enhanced, often taking on the appearance of rocks, flowers, or other natural forms. Although not skilled as a flower painter, Arnold Chang couldn’t resist harmonizing his brushwork with the salt crystals’ natural floral patterns. And rising to Michael’s challenge, Chang developed a novel technique that combines Himalayan black salt with the more conventional ink medium to further enhance the crystals’ resemblance to flower blossoms.

  • Detail of Salt Lattice, 2018
  • salt lattice:The painting is a grainy image of salt magnified by a microscope and presented in black and white on a horizontal rectangular canvas.

    Arnold Chang & Michael Cherney, Salt Lattice 盐图晶格, 2018, photography and ink on xuan paper mounted on paper,  24 inches x 57 inches (61 cm x 145cm)

    Salt Lattice

     “Salt Lattice” is the most innovative and experimental work in the exhibition. Most of the collaborations begin with Cherney’s photographic excerpts of physical scenery, printed on xuan paper, to which Chang adds his distinctive brushwork. “Salt Lattice” has its genesis in a more unexpected source—the salt crystal.


    In homage to the "salt print"  process, Michael Cherney photographed salt crystals dissolving under a microscope then enlarged selected image details. By arranging the details into the shape of a lattice for printing, Cherney created a “canvas” of random yet orderly configurations that Arnold Chang could attempt to weave into a coherent composition.  


    Rising to the challenge, Chang extended the salt metaphor by developing a technique that employed salt as a painting medium. He dampened the blank areas of paper between the photographic images and sprinkled crystals of Himalayan black (and occasionally pink) salt onto the wet paper. Chang used a brush to drag the crystals across the surface, leaving traces of color as the water evaporated. The salt acted as a resistant substance that created unusual patterns when mixed with the wet ink. After the paper dried, Chang dusted off the crystals and enhanced the image with additional brushwork. The resulting composition is abstract and fully contemporary yet resonant with echoes of classical Chinese landscape imagery.

  • detail of Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang's collaboration artwork, featuring two small fractions of colored photograph captured by Michael's lens and peripheral landscape painted by Arnold's brushes
    Details of Inversion #2i / #2ii
  • Inversion #2i / #2ii:

    This pair of works share the same photographic excerpt, a view of Granite Dells and Watson Lake in Prescott, Arizona. For Inversion 2ii, Michael Cherney “inverted” the hue by flipping the photograph's colors to their spectrum opposites. The true reds and greens of nature seen in Inversion 2i become otherworldly tints of blue and purple in Inversion 2ii. Before creating these pieces, Arnold Chang experimented with a similar blue and purple color palette in his solo works. These experiments inspired Cherney to adjust the hue of his photographs, and he was delighted to discover Chang’s color palette naturally appearing at the opposite end of the spectrum. Although the photos depict the same scene in opposite colors, Chang reacted to the inverted color schemes by imagining two separate, though related, compositions.

  • Huang Shan Passages series:

    All of the photographic excerpts in the Huang Shan Passages series were drawn from a single 35 mm film frame of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) in China’s Anhui province. For each work, Cherney enlarged a unique photographic detail to the point of abstraction. His goal was to evoke nature's fundamental structures and reference the classical brushwork they inspired. In some cases, Chang rotated the original images to create vertical compositions.

  • Installation photos of Ink Affinities: The Collaborative Works of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney.
  • Black-and-white portrait of artist Michael Cherney facing towards mountains and lakes

    “I can liken our collaborations to the shape of an hourglass: the vast expanse of the physical world being drawn into the lens and then further reduced to a small, grainy excerpt; focusing attention on the neck, that narrowest point, the shared stem– the moment where our arts meet and communicate. We search for resonance between artistic practices as well as between the physical and imagined world. These worlds mirror each other; any tension between them is balanced.” — Michael Cherney

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