Image of artwork titled "Velvet Tondo #7" by Ellen Jong

Ellen Jong, Velvet Tondo #7, 2022
Protein resin, pigments, black velvet, heat, water, wood panel
46 × 46 × 2.25 inches

Putting traditional calligraphic ink to unexpectedly groundbreaking ends, Ellen Jong’s sculptures reimagine an ancient communicative tool to explore the body, stereotypes, personal history, and cultural identity. Born in Queens and currently based in Los Angeles, Jong was taught traditional Chinese calligraphy at an early age with a dry ink stick, water, inkstone and brush. Her reconnection with ink took place during a 2014 trip to a river town in China whose natural rock formations with shafts straight into the river served as “water prisons” during imperial times. The thought of a person facing death by being washed away slowly between water and stone created a powerful connection for Jong between the body and the ink sticks of her childhood. Reversing the traditional process of preparing ink for calligraphy (from a solid to a liquid), Jong begins with liquid ink which she dehydrates in order to create a workable material for sculpture. On the wall, a work from her Velvet Tondo series uses the same solid ink as her fountains to depict smiley face motifs against a rich black velvet ground. Bright color pigments are layered in with the ink, letting pops of color come through to correspond with different phases of the moon, a metaphor for the complexity of positive emotions.



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