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. 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 national values that it symbolizes. Almost all ink sticks are in stick formed by carved wooden molds of landscapes and nature scenes sometimes with animals and figures in them. If not a stick, then a disc or slab. Sometimes, they are in the form of a 'godly' figure or deity but never human. Traditional ink sticks are made with raw materials from animal and fire, and then dried for years. Quality is determined by the richness and tones in the black pigment when ground on a stone with water and applied to paper. The hand making process requires heat, water, muscle to continuously knead and beat the ink while 'wet', and time. When I asked the ink artisans how long it usually takes the answer was, 'depends on the day' - speaking to the moisture and temperature conditions of that day. Chinese students still learn traditional painting practices in school using the ink stick. One can find ink sticks from as early as Ming Dynasty which are highly sought after.  I visited the ink stick factory three years after I had started to learn and develop my own ink. The process is still alchemic and organic and made by hand - from powder, liquid, gel, solid and then ground back into liquid - affirming the initial seduction and my relationship with this material. 

The ink material is 'alive' - always sort of in between states and subject to change in extreme elements - expresses a personal and the complex condition of our time.

My ink material is poured, dried, cut, patched together, weaved, melted, steamed, molded and brushed on to make sculptural works. I use rice paper, language and methods/materials/subjects of the vernacular. Themes include identity, heritage, body, anxiety and mortality.

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