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Artist showers with Chinese ink

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

09:24, April 23, 2012

Jennifer Ma Wen's latest installation, Hanging Garden in Ink, is displayed at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art. Zou Hong / China Daily

When artist Jennifer Ma Wen set out to create her latest installation, Hanging Garden in Ink, she envisioned it as her conversation with the plants and ink.

"The black ink, the green plants and I express ourselves through our own language," she explains at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, where her work is on display until May 27.

Her 20-meter-long, 3-meter-wide and 8-meter-high masterpiece is a tableau of 1,400 live plants painted in black Chinese ink, leaving only their flowers in vibrant colors. The lower half of the tableau consists of real plants that mirror the top half of the installation, creating the effect of a garden's reflection on water.

"Chinese ink is organic and made of natural ingredients. So, while the black coverage will slow the plants' growth, it will not terminate its life," says Ma, pointing to some newly-grown green buds in the lower half of the tableau. "You can see that those plants continue to grow with tender shoots, giving evidence of the perseverance and resilience of life. I am touched by the scene, especially now that spring is here."

The 38-year-old artist's large scale installation was inspired by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Legend has it that King Nebuchadnezzar II created the garden on the walls of his palace as a gift for his wife, who longed for the green mountains of her homeland.

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