• Post of the exhibition, with exhibition details
    Post of the Exhibition

    Fung Ming Chip: Traces of Time

    Curated by Dr. Daniel Greenberg

    Beginning March 17th, 2023, Fu Qiumeng Fine Art will mount a special presentation of Chinese artist Fung Ming Chip (冯明秋, b. 1951)’s latest series, NumberS, while also showcasing the artist’s unique approach to the medium of shufa (书法, the art of writing) through a selection of works taken from across his long career.  An accomplished poet, playwright, essayist, and seal carver, Fung now turns in his latest works to the deconstruction of shufa by exploring the connection between writing, self-representation, and time. 

    Born in Guangdong and raised in Hong Kong, Fung began his artistic career after he moved to New York City in 1977.  His first experiments in seal carving (篆刻, zhuanke) deconstructed the forms of Chinese characters in this traditional medium. This engagement with the written word led Fung to a broader study of Chinese characters in the art of shufa.  Over the past forty years, Fung has invented over a hundred distinctive “scripts” that employ a wide range of styles and non-traditional processes, each of which explores how shufa works to represent the artist’s practice unfolding in time.

  • Fung Ming Chip's work Fung Ming Chip's Artwork Fung Ming Chip's Artwork Fung Ming Chip's Artwork Fung Ming Chip's Artwork Fung Ming Chip's Artwork Fung Ming Chip's Artwork

    On view through May 20th, Traces of Time features 19 works that illuminate Fung Ming Chip’s evolving art practice and calligraphic philosophy over the past four decades. In the newest, NumberS Series, Fung builds upon his past experiments, using successive layers of Arabic numbers, ink washes, and calculated excisions to transcribe his full process of creation.  Every action – from the first stroke of his brush to the final affixture of his seals — is clearly legible on the page. Each work thus functions as an unbroken transcription of Fung’s artistic process and, by extension, a portrait of the artist himself.


    The exhibition is curated by Dr. Daniel Greenberg, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

  • Fung Ming Chip is practicing calligraphy

    Traces of Time

    This exhibition is divided into four sections that showcase how different elements of Fung Ming Chip’s artistic practice engage with the unifying idea of representing time. The first section considers the artist’s traditional shufa practice, showing how he pushes aesthetic and cultural boundaries using poetry and stylistic play. The second section explores a series of works that use traditional materials in innovative ways to achieve distinctive and surprising effects. A third section showcases Fung’s inventive experimentation with nontraditional processes. And the final section shows how the artist combines all of these practices—writing, painting, style, and process—in NumberS Series.

  • I

    Fung Ming Chip’s shufa  is firmly grounded in traditional practice. Beginning in the 1970s, Fung achieved mastery of traditional shufa by copying the brushwork and composition of classical works and integrating them into his art. For Fung, what distinguishes shufa from other art forms is its ability to faithfully record the process of its creation. In his Shufa Sutra (2015), Fung explains this idea by defining shufa as the “art of time.” Works of traditional shufa are legible records of the actions that created them, allowing viewers to follow each brushstroke, in sequence, from start to finish.

  • Fung Ming Chip's calligraphy in seal script
    Fung Ming Chip, Couplet in Seal Script, 篆书对联, 1981, Signed, Ink on Paper, Each 47 x 12 in (2)

    Couplet in Seal Script, 篆书对联

    Even when working with traditional imagery and legible characters, Fung uses the practice of shufa in innovative ways. This work reads “a hollow center [of bamboo] contains nothing; its joints are obstructions” 中空不容物,有節而不通. In Chinese culture, the outward appearance of bamboo represents the cultured elegance of a scholar. By contrast, Fung focuses on the structure of bamboo, arguing that it is empty, with joints that prevent it from bending. His characters here have no joints or sharp angles. Is true beauty found when the trappings of a gentleman are left behind? Or does unfettered expression make the concept of beauty irrelevant?

  • II

    Can shufa serve as a record of time when its connection to writing breaks down? In a range of works that date from the early 1980s to the present, Fung uses the traditional tools of brush, ink, and paper in new ways, creating “scripts” that push the boundaries of legibility. Despite their varied appearance, these scripts are united by their common meditation on time and process. Reading these works layer by layer, a viewer can trace Fung’s artistic process, even without being versed in traditional Chinese modes of viewership.
  • Image of Pine Needle Script
    Fung Ming Chip, Piled Needle Script, 针直叠字, 2001, Ink on Paper, 54 x 27 in

    Piled Needle Script, 针直叠字

    This 2001 work uses the materials and processes of traditional shufa to explore the connection between embodied time and legibility. “Piled Needle Script” is created with uniform strokes from an upright brush that are individually legible as good traditional brushwork. However, Fung has exploded the composition of each character and stacked individual characters upon each other, creating uneven accumulations of brushwork across the page that place a strain on legibility. Punctuating the irregular open spaces with seals, the artist calls our attention to this work as a painted collection of shapes and lines, even as flashes of recognizable text confirm its unbroken connection to shufa.

  • Fung Ming Chip's Transition script calligraphy artwork on wall
    Fung Ming Chip, Transition Script, 变化字, 2022, Signed, Ink on Paper, 13 3/4 x 51 1/8 in

    Transition Script, 变化字

    Fung is a prolific poet who uses shufa as a medium for literary self-expression. This work records a moment of poetic introspection during a transpacific flight. To embody the meaning of the poem, the artist uses two distinctive scripts. In the first, his meditations on structure and substance appear in needle script, which breaks down characters into thin lines and expands their internal structure to push the boundaries of legibility. In the second, he incorporates elements of musical notation into characters to transcribe the rhythm of time. Fung switches from needle script to musical script as he moves from “cheating physical structure”  欺騙生理結構  to the next line, “confusing time and space by focusing on distance” 迷惑時空焦點距離.
  • Music Script
    Fung Ming Chip, Music Script, 音乐字 , Signed, Ink on Paper, 54 x 27 1/2 in (137.2 x 69.8 cm)

    Music Script, 音乐字

    In “Music Script,” Fung Ming Chip integrates the rhythmic language of musical notation into shufa. The symbols for notes and rests have been folded into characters, disrupting the standard reading of characters as text and injecting a second rhythm into his poetry. For example, “Departure” describes Fung’s view from his airplane window on a night flight. In the line “the irregular patches of white are snow,” the character 白 (white) has been widened, and one interior stroke has been thickened to form the notation for a half rest, drawing out the word and giving the impression of unending sheets of clouds extending beneath the airplane.

  • III

    Beginning in the 1990s, Fung began to experiment with processes that embed time in shufa in new ways. He has built layers of texture by using baths of ink and water, by layering paper, and even by excising text with razor blades. Though these processes break from the conventions that define traditional shufa practice, these works explore how layers of creation can be clearly encoded into the flat surface of a static work, making the chronological sequence of Fung’s practice legible to viewers.

  • artwork with rubbing script calligraphy
    Fung Ming Chip, Rubbing Script, 拓字, 2017, Ink on Paper, 24 x 48 in

    Rubbing Script, 拓字

    In this work, the artist uses the multistep process of “Rubbing Script” to trace the layers of meaning at play in the words he has written. Fung first wrote “more mall” in water before bathing this section of paper in light grey ink. Afterwards, he wrote the character 魔 mo (demon) in an added layer of dark black. Reading the English and Chinese words individually, they share a similar sound.  But reading them together, they provide a pointed critique of consumerism.  

  • Image of Mixed script
     Fung Ming Chip, Mixed Scripts, 混合字, 2015, Signed, Ink on Paper, 24 x 48 in (61 x 122 cm)

    Mixed Scripts, 混合字

    The multifarious but unified transcription of this poem in “Mixed Script” was created through a carefully planned, multi-step process. First, Fung wrote the complete text on a piece of xuan paper. When it dried, he laid a second piece on top, creating a section in “Shadow Script.” Tracing the characters in the upper third with water, he then painted over the wet paper using a brush loaded with dark grey ink; the interaction between ink and water caused these characters to emerge in light grey. Next, he traced the middle section of the work using water before laying a stencil atop the uppermost sheet. As he lightly pulled a dry brush of dark grey ink across this section, the moist areas absorbed more than the dry paper around them, creating these textured forms. The artist then laid triangular stencils between the bottom and top sheets, tracing the outlines of the characters that could still be seen. Leaving the lowermost portion of the paper unfinished, Fung wrote the remaining characters in dark ink, letting them dry before painting over them in a similar shade of grey. The resulting work appears to be flat and unified, inviting a standard reading that starts in the upper right and moves from top to bottom, right to left . But the physical traces of this work’s production are also present, inviting viewers to witness each step of its creation. 


  • IV

    In 2002, Fung Ming Chip started experimenting with the ideas and processes that evolved into NumberS Series by incorporating Arabic numbers and dates into his art. Five years later, he realized that numbers, like Chinese characters, hold the power to represent sequences of time. In his first exhibition of NumberS Series in 2015, Fung wrote sequences of dates and binary code using both traditional brushwork and mechanical processes. These works pushed the boundaries of shufa, distancing his practice from a purely literary mode of expression and aligning it more closely with ink painting. In his latest works from NumberS Series, Fung combines visual representations and perspectival rendering with his unique approach to shufa to create new possibilities for expression while drawing elements from both traditions.

  • Vacant Script
    Fung Ming Chip, NumberS: Form Vacant Script II, 数字系列:定型空心字(二), 2022, Ink on Paper, 27 x 38 1/4 in

    NumberS: Vacant Script with Excision, 数字系列:留空空心字

    Although series of numbers often embed a discrete, logical sequence of time into Fung’s works, the artist sometimes plays with this idea to create surprising effects. In this work, Fung laid multiple pages of handwritten numbers upon a flat surface together with some uninscribed triangles and rectangles. Placing a sheet of paper atop this collage, he outlined the numbers that were visible in a uniform style. Although the sequenced time within each traced series is legible, this logical progression is disrupted by flattening and juxtaposing these overlapping, multi-oriented, and partially obfuscated numbers into a coherent but jumbled whole.

  • Pagoda transparent Script
    Fung Ming Chip, NumberS: Transparent Script with Pagoda, 数字系列:宝塔透字, 2022, Ink on Paper, 27 1/8 x 56 1/4 in

    NumberS: Transparent Script with Pagoda, 数字系列:宝塔透字

    At the center of this work is a stylized representation of a pagoda, paired with a seal that reads, “the spirit escapes” 元神出竅. This expression is derived from Daoist practice, describing the level of spiritual attainment where a practitioner’s soul is able to leave the body. In Fung’s painting, this phrase takes on new meaning when paired with a pagoda, a symbol of Buddha’s freedom from the cycle of rebirth. Imprinting this stamp atop a sequence of numbers as well as swirling circular and oblong forms, the artist uses the tension between layers of painting and shufa to explore two kinds of liberation. Can spirit escape from form? Can it escape from time itself?

  • NumberS: Shadow Script with Excision, 数字系列:留空影字

    The sequence of Fung’s artistic process is embedded in the layers of this work. First, he wrote a series of numbers in light grey ink before quickly painting over them with a brush loaded with dark grey ink. The interaction between these two shades of wet ink makes the numbers spread and “bloom” where the dark ink is thickest. The last few strokes of this upper layer were applied as the brush ran out of ink, leaving brushy streaks that produce a different effect. Next, Fung used a razor blade to excise arrow shapes from the paper, pointing to elements of the layers beneath. Finally, he finished the work by affixing a seal with his name squarely in the center. Thus, while the formal elements seem balanced and strictly two-dimensional, the work may be read as a record of Fung’s artistic process unfolding in time.
  • Fung Ming Chip