With paintbrushes and cups of black ink in hand, students, children, and parents lined the perimeters of a room in the Addison Gallery of American Art on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday during an open session hosted by Sumi Ink Club. Chatter filled the room as participants dipped their brushes into the ink and painted a variety of designs on the paper covered gallery walls.
Sumi Ink Club is a drawing project founded in 2005 by Los Angeles-based artists Sarah Rara and Luke Fischbeck. The club holds free, open-to-the-public meetings during which participants paint with brushes and Sumi ink, creating work in the traditional Sumi ink wash painting style.
“We use [Sumi ink] in a very raw style, like a very brute way. We don’t dilute the ink at all, so it stays very opaque and very black. We like Sumi ink because it is very binary. It is on or off, it is black or white. So, rather than layering on top of marks, you layer and add horizontally. The spirit is to add on to what others have drawn and make something that is open enough to accept other people’s input,” said Rara.
These meetings provide an opportunity to bring members of the community together.
“[The work] is an expression of true collaboration and creativity. It also helps people be more free and open to not only add something but to also be comfortable with somebody else adding to your work and changing it. Also knowing that will continue throughout the process is very unique. I think this gives the Andover kids a sense of freedom and helps them let go and make something creative, while being okay with the fact that someone might change [their work],” said Allison Kemmerer, Addison Curator of Art after 1950 and of Photography.
In addition to encouraging collaborative work from the Andover community, the Sumi Ink Club was invited to host this meeting at the Addison as a way to create work that complements other exhibits currently on view.
“Upstairs, we have the Mark Tobey exhibition, and he was trained in Sumi Ink drawing. There are actually some Sumi Ink paintings upstairs. We thought that it would be the perfect compliment to have contemporary artists who are working with the same medium to exhibit at the same time. This is a community, hands-on event. It is a nice way to involve people on campus in Andover and beyond and bring them into the Addison and create art together,” said Allison Kemmerer, Addison Curator of Art after 1950 and of Photography.
Attendees of the event also appreciated the nanderous opportunity to draw on the walls, an activity usually not allowed in museums.
“I like art, and I actually used Sumi ink in my art class during [Junior] Year. I thought it was a really cool process. Also, it is just so attractive to draw on the walls, because you’re not supposed to draw there, but since you have the opportunity you just want to do it,” said Zar Cordova-Potter ’20, a participating artist at the event.
Although the works of individual participants are unified into a single wall mural, the diversity of the contributing artists is evident when looking closely at the details.
Rara said, “The piece reflects the diversity of the participants. When we look at the drawings, there are two things happening. There are both, this unifying property, the togetherness, because we are both working in the same material, but then when you get closer to the drawing, you see the differences and you see how interesting and bizarre it is in everyone’s mind and everyone’s imaginations. It is a little window to the fact that there is our own separate realities and then there is also a consensus reality, and those things are operating at the same time.”
Sumi Ink Club hosts meetings like these all around the world. Even though each group of participants uses the same kinds of brushes, ink, and painting style, the work created during each session is never the same.
“The people make it unique. Every meeting is unique because it is a really distinct group of people, and it is and organisation of humans that would never be repeated. So this exact group of people, we would never find them again in this configuration. So, each drawing also looks visually different, even though there are stylistic similarities between the meanings, because of all the different areas of expertise that the drawers have. People bring their own experiences and their own life into the drawing,” said Rara.
The finished wall mural will be unveiled at the opening reception on Friday, January 26, and will be on view through the summer.