In October 2018, I visited some of the remaining ink factories in China. Still hand crafted with centuries of experience behind them, men usually making the ink into ink sticks because it's a hefty task and women usually finishing them. Little has changed in the process except to make bigger batches in a production line manner. Even though there are fewer and fewer people learning to continue this ancient craft, most of the factories are sponsored by the government to preserve the traditional values that embody the humble ink stick. Almost all ink sticks are in stick form ornate with landscapes and nature scenes sometimes with animals and figures in them. If not a stick, then a disc or slab but always from a wooden mold. Sometimes, they are in a 'godly' figure or deity, never human. Traditional ink sticks are made and dried for five years or more and quality is determined by the richness and tones in the black pigment when ground on a stone with water and applied to paper. These are achieved in the hand making process which requires heat, muscle to continuously knead and beat the ink while 'wet', and time. When I asked how long it takes the answer was, 'depends on the day' - speaking to the moisture and temperature conditions of that day. Ink sticks are made in different qualities and sold at traditional painting supply shops or marketed to tourists. One can find ink sticks from as early as Ming Dynasty which are highly sought after.  What was most impressive to see was its survived alchemic, organic and hand crafted qualities that take attention and time, and to see the ink stick in all its states - powder, liquid, gel, solid and then ground back into liquid - affirming the initial seduction and my urge to work with this material. 

My studio-made material was inspired by the Chinese ink stick with integrity in mind so that the techinical yet primal process and its indefinite state - always sort of in between states and subject to change in extreme elements - express the complex conditions of our time.

All studio-made ink is made with protein gelatin and heat much like the first inks from centuries ago. My material is organic - molded, poured, pigmented, and manipulated to achieve these sculptural works - strongly advised to stay cool, dry and out of direct sunlight. The framed works are treated for minimal protection. Essentially, the material is alive and show signs of transformation, layers of time and decay though minimal.

Ink on Paper 2019 - 2020

Ragazza Moderna, cercando il suo limite (Modern Girl and Her Edge) - 34.5 x 27 x 6.75 in

Ragazza Moderna, e le sue magie (Modern Girl and Her Tricks) - 34.5 x 27 x 7 in

Ragazza Moderna, e i suoi segreti (Modern Girl and Her Secrets) - 34.5 x 27 x 6.25 in

Ragazza Moderna, e il suo specchio (Modern Girl and Her Mirror) - 34.5 x 27 x 5.3 in

Ragazza Moderna, e le sue tre facce (Modern Girl and Her Three Faces) - 34.5 x 27 x 5.5 in

Mixed Media:

Pigmented protein resin, acrylic, ink, rice paper, chinese finger trap, custom plexi case


Ink Caution Tape Ribbon: Fragile - 48.75 x 26.75 x 3in

Ink Caution Tap Ribbon: Love - 24.25 x 18.75 x 2.5 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, inkjet print on synthetic fabric, pins

Ink Caution Tape Ribbon: Safe - 19 x 15 x 2.5 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, rice paper, pins submerged in water and dried

2017 - 2020

I Know You Better Than You Know Yourself - 34.5 x 21.5 x 4 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, monofilament lining, hardware, custom plexi case

A Hole Lot - 30.75 x 37 x 3 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, ink, acrylic, water, rice paper

Ink Pantie on Pillow: Word - 10.25 x 14.25 x 2 in

Ink Pantie on Pillow: Don't Lie - 10.25 x 14.25 x 2 in

Ink Pantie on Pillow: Beuys - 10.25 x 14.25 x 2 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, cotton fabric, cotton stuffing, wood frame

2016 - 2020

Ink Body: Untitled - 35.5 x 12 x 12 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, hardware

Ink Body: Heart in Blood, in Stone, in Ink - 5.5 x 4.25 x 1.25 in 

Pigmented protein resin

Ink Body: No One Steps in the Same Shit Twice - 48 x 9 x 9 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, hardware, chinese finger trap, wood stool

Ink Body: Cubed - 16 x 8 x 8 in

Mixed Media: pigmented protein resin, cardbord box, custom plexi case

Ellen Jong © 2020