A primary essential element in calligraphy is time. What is time? I do not know. I only know eternity means that time no longer exists. Buddha is dead, Jesus is dead. Eventually all life form vanishes. Beings exist in the present, live and die between to be and not to be.

Fung Ming Chip, 2012

The Private Museum presents a special exhibition developed from the long-term relationship that began 15 years ago between Singapore-based collector, Christopher Franck, and Hong Kong-based artist, Fung Ming Chip. Franck’s collection of Fung’s works introduces the artist’s early experimentation with the medium of traditional Chinese calligraphy. The large-scale site-specific conceptual installation of his Chan & Heart Sutra Series is a development of Fung’s recurring theme of Heart Sutra in his earlier works. Fung’s latest work is a result of transforming an established art form into an entirely new style that challenges the values which shape human behavior and perception. In his continuous search of what calligraphy is, Fung pushes the boundaries of the medium and explores the element of time.


Artist’s Biography

Fung Ming Chip (b. 1951, Guangdong, China)

Fung Ming Chip is a Hong Kong-based artist, active as a painter, photographer, playwright, sculptor and poet. He was raised in Hong Kong and moved to New York in 1977. Since 1986, he has been living between New York, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and settled down in Hong Kong in 2006.

Among his many international exhibitions, Fung had a major solo retrospective at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in 1999.  He was artist in residence at Cambridge University in 2004, and in 2008 he created Les Poemes du Mandarin tableware pattern for Hermes. His work is included in major private and institutional collections around the world, such as Ashmolean Museum (Oxford University, England), Hong Kong Museum of Art (China), Israel Museum (Israel), Metropolitan Museum of Art (USA), and White Rabbit Collection (Australia).


2012 Mandarin Oriental, Miami, FL, USA
2010 Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong, China
2009 Gebert Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
2006 “Recent Work, Fung Ming Chip”, Alisan Fine Arts, Hong Kong, China
Leda Fletcher Gallery, Shanghai, China & Geneva, Switzerland
2005 “Abstract Forms”, Art Beatus, Hong Kong, China
“Beginning of Infinity”, Neuhoff Gallery, New York, USA
2004 “Rational Line”, Jesus College, Cambridge University, UK
2002 Gallery Saka, Tokyo, Japan
10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, China
2000 Goedhuis Contemporary, London, UK
1999 Tsing Hwa University, Hsin Chu, Taiwan
Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
“Caligrafia Chinesa de Fung Ming-Chip,” Fundacåo Orient, Casa Garden, Macau, China
1997 Hanart Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
1995 “Party”, Color Field Art Space, Taipei, Taiwan
1994 “Value Transformation”, Duchamp Gallery, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
1993 “Variations of Seal Carving”, Taipei County Cultural Centre, Taipei, Taiwan
1991 “The Word by Fung Ming-Chip”, Quart Society, Hong Kong, China
1990 “Root of the Words”, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong, China
1986 “The Seal 1975 – 1985”, Asian Arts Institute, New York, USA
1984 “Photo Space”, Catherine Gallery, New York, USA
1982 “Lenscape”, American Library, Presented by American Consulate, Hong Kong, China


2011 Ink Art vs Ink Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, China
2010 Writing/Non-writing, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
Ink Art vs Ink Art, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
2009 Calligraffiti, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA
The 24th Asia International Art Exhibition, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia
2008 Shenzhen Ink Biennial, Shenzhen Museum of Art, Shenzhen, China
2007 “Made In China” Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark, and
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
2005 “The Painted Word: Language as Image in Modern Art,” Lafayette
College, Pennsylvania, USA
“The Act of Writing and of Non-Writing: The Open Space for Chinese
Calligraphy”, International Exhibition of Modern Calligraphy 2005, Hangzhou, China
2002 “China”, Museum Saap, São Paulo, Brazil
“Paris-Pekin”, Espace Cardin, Paris, France
2001 “China Without Borders”, Goedhuis Contemporary at Sotheby’s, New York, USA
“Tradition and Experimentation: The Second Chinese Calaliraphy – 2001”, Ho’s
Gallery of Calligraphy Arts, Taipei, Taiwan & Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
2000 “New Perspective on Contemporary Calligraphy – A Dialogue with Modern Sinitic
Writing Art”, Taiwan Museum of Art, Taichung, Taiwan
1999 “Avant Gardes en Chine”, Galerie LOFT, Paris, France
1997 “Stream Segment”, Asian American Arts Centre, New York, USA
1995 “Looking Through Lines”, Dimension Endowment of Art, Taipei, Taiwan
1994 “Flowering  in the West” Haenah-Kent gallery, New York, USA
1990 “Chinesische Kalligraphie”, Galerie Lommel, Germany
1984 “Small Works Exhibition”, Washington Square East Galleries, New York University, USA
1983 “Self-Portrait”, The Landmark, Hong Kong, China


The Space In Between:

Observations on the Art of Fung Ming Chip

by Valerie C. Doran






These words, linked in a sequence, evoke both a sense of atmosphere and of progression.  On one level, the evocation is that of an ethereal transformation in nature: rain falling, dispelling, disintegrating into light, leaving clarity and emptiness behind. On another, more philosophical level, it is of a Zen-like process of transformation: from form to movement to illumination and, finally, to nothingness. In essence, the progression towards Nirvana.

In Fung Ming Chip’s exhibition To Be and Not to Be, these words (and their attendant connotations) are present as the names of calligraphic script types invented by the artist; scripts which he has used to inscribe the Chinese text of the Heart Sutra, and the single word ‘chan’ (Zen) on the scrolls gracing the space of his installation. The terms ‘Rain Script’, ‘Splash Script’, ‘Transparent Script’, ‘Hollow Script’ and others are thus both indicative and descriptive–not of content, but of gesture: of the physical, kinetic movements of the calligrapher as he moves through time, engaging with his materials of ink, water and paper, and of the gestural effects of the marks he leaves behind. Characters are seen splashed onto paper, illuminated by shadow, floating up from beneath layers of ink, filled at their core with emptiness. And thus Fung’s invented scripts also bear a subtly semantic relationship to the literal content of the Heart Sutra’s calligraphed lines:


Without form there is no emptiness.

Without emptiness there is no form.

Form is then emptiness. Emptiness is then form.

Feeling, thought, volition and consciousness are also like this.

Sariptura, all these dharmas are phenomena,

No created, not destroyed,

Not defiled, not pure,

Not increasing, not decreasing.


Fung’s fascination with the Heart Sutra lies in its presentation of the ontological conundrum of form and emptiness as existing simultaneously, one within the other, and yet as separate states. In the installation of his ‘concept section’, the artist has created a multi-dimensional and multi-textural exploration of this existential conundrum. ‘Form’ exists variously in the objects he has placed in the installation—calligraphy scrolls, bookcase, marks he has drawn on the floor and the wall; in the calligraphed character for the word ‘form’ repeated in the Heart Sutra scrolls; in the formal, gestural effects created by his script types in the calligraphic texts written on the scroll and wall surfaces; and in the totality of the physical relationships among all these things. Emptiness exists in the open, central space delineated by the presence of the walls and the lines on the floor; in the calligraphed characters for the word ‘emptiness’ in the Heart Sutra scrolls; in the effects of fading, translucence, and transparency created in the written texts through a brilliant manipulation of water and ink; and in a single scroll which has had its heart cut out, and whose empty space reveals text written on the wall behind.

As an experimental calligrapher, Fung has always sought to discover new layers of conceptual and structural freedom within calligraphy’s organic terrain of text and form. This seeking involves to some degree a process of deconstruction, in which he separates, analyses, scrambles and then reconstructs in his own manner the elements that constitute the calligraphic art form. To him, the essence of calligraphy lies in the relationship and interplay between text, line and motion: and it is this relationship that reveals the most essential element of calligraphy, which Fung defines not as line, but as time. By nature of its text-based format calligraphy requires following a linear passage through time, similar to the way a dancer follows choreographic codes or a musician follows a score.

But rather than seeking virtuosity of line and brushwork, which in traditional connoisseurship is considered the supreme achievement, Fung focuses on the exploration of text as a spatial and temporal element that can be dismantled, reconstructed and even made retroactive, and he wields ink, water, brush and paper and text as experimental tools in this process. In past works the artist experimented with moving beyond calligraphy’s traditional, two-dimensional format, creating sculptural works that presented an unusual, three-dimensional fusion of calligraphy and seal carving. As in the present exhibition, he has also played with the idea of creating alternative environments of encounter between audience and text.  In the group exhibition ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ (Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2008-09), for example, Fung constructed a completely dark, cave-like space where calligraphic texts consisting of Fung’s own poems or of statements by Western and Chinese artists and thinkers were scrawled onto the walls. Viewers could only discover and read the texts by moving through the darkness with a only small hand-held flashlight to guide them.

Yetno matter how far Fung takes his experimentations, the centrality of text is always preserved: otherwise, he says, he would not be a calligrapher. In this way Fung differs from contemporary artists such as Xu Bing or QiuZhengzhong who have undertaken a radical deconstruction of calligraphy by negating or even completely severing its link to text. Such artists, says Fung, are not calligraphers, but conceptualists. His passion is to expand the possibilities for interactions and intersections of text, ink, water, time, space, and surface, retaining and adding on to these ingredients rather than eliminating them.

Valerie C. Doran is a Hong-Kong based critic, curator and translator specializing in the field of contemporary Asian art with a special interest in cultural cross-currents and comparative art theory. 



Opening Reception
Tuesday 23 October 2012, 6.30pm

Artist’s Talk
Saturday 27 October 2012, 3pm




Fung Ming Chip: To Be & Not To Be @ The Private Museum