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A Preface by Professor Tung Meng Mei

I became acquainted with Ling Ko in October 2001, during her exhibit at the Cultural Gallery at Taipei's National Music Hall. This first exhibit of hers, with its fresh approach to painting, varied techniques, and brilliant colors, garnered her high acclaim from the art community Despite the differences in our ages and academic pursuits, we spoke like old friends at this first meeting. When she invited me to pen a preface for her album, I wholeheartedly, and somewhat boldly agreed.

Ling Ko's induction into the realm of art was purely incidental. A meeting with her first mentor Shan-Shen Yang, the master painter of the Ling-nan School, opened doors to a new world of art, resulting in great progress in her painting skills. Another meeting with the famous Taiwanese painter Mr. Yuan-Hai Li enabled her to develop her talents in contemporary Chinese painting. Now, in her spare time when not engaged In sitting meditation, she works arduously on her art. Her skill in the fields of calligraphy, painting, and music have developed tremendously. By bringing her specialty of ink and watercolor splash to a higher level, she allows audiences a glimpse into a new face of modern Chinese painting. One might even call her the one-woman power at thc forefront of contemporary Chinese art.

One can trace the course of development of Chinese ink painting from its roots to Ling Ko's contemporary style. Wang Chia of the Tang Dynasty, known for his ink splash depictions of landscapes, rocks, and pines, is one of China's most renowned traditional painters. However, his notoriety for being a drunkard outstrips the fame of his ink splashes. His student, Ku Huang. also drank each time before picking up his brush. Ku Huang's ink splashes were often created in an intoxicated state of frenzy, and his behavior grew to be more infamous than that of his teacher's. None of their works, however, have survived to today. After this pair, the term “po_mo" was coined to refer to the technique of using lighter shades of ink to break the monotony of darker shades and vice versa. This technique, however, was not taken seriously among artists until the South Song Dynasty when Mu Su, Liang Chich, and Wang Chien put the technique to significant use. The phrase “shui-mo hua¨, water and ink splash, was coined later by the Japanese. In recent years, many art institutes have renamed this Chinese approach to painting as “water and ink splashing". After this came “ink and watercolor paintings",  From a modern perspective, Ling Ko's style falls into the category of “ink, water, arid color splashes”.

In his later years, after a European tour, the master painter Chang Ta Chien garnered much praise for his landscape paintings that used the ink and watercolor splash technique. This period of Chang's work was considered by many to be his greatest. When Chang painted, he mounted his paper to a wooden board, first applied ink splashes, then followed with splashes of watercolor. He restricted himself to only two shades of green and sometimes employed white powder. These three colors were mineral based and their ability to diffuse through paper was very poor. So during the painting process, Chang had to apply the colors before the background ink dried, and he would apply water at the borders of color strokes to enhance their diffusion. He also employed a third method of placing the mounted paper at an angle to help the colored inks diffuse. His experiments provide insight into the development of the various theories and techniques of Chinese painting. It is clear, however, that Ling Ko's paintings demonstrate techniques different from those of Master Chang's. In Master Chang's paintings, black is the dominant color. In Ling Ko's paintings, colors prevail. The brilliant colors of her paintings are a feast for the eyes. Splashes of black ink, color, and water dynamically integrate into explosive, vibrant creations. The secret behind her creativity, as she herself has said, “lies in achieving the perfect contrast of ink tones and in exact balance in the blending of colors. From this arises a state of union between artist and subject”. Ling Ko's paintings reside in the “realm beyond conceptualization” sought by Zen Buddhists, They are the result of images springing directly from the void of being, manifesting through a will of their own.

When Ling Ko first visited Master Shan-Shen Yang in Vancouver, B.C., Master Yang was in the middle of a painting. As she observed, he applied a brush stroke, turned to Ling. and asked, “What did you see?¨ Ling replied. “I noticed that you applied that stroke with optimal force and speed¨. Master Yang broke into a tacit smile. This incident is reminiscent of an episode recorded in the Buddhist Cannon where a similar exchange of thought occurred between mentor and apprentice at Spiritual Vulture Peak. Master Yang has often encouraged Ling with these words, “Shwu-lin, your splash paintings are full of energy and spirit Paint more, splash more¨. With his encouragement, Ling has abandoned herself to the splashing of water, ink, and color. Guided by the principle of “the more splashing, the better¨. Ling has amassed, over several years, a collection of beautiful splash paintings. The portfolio chat she has created in the past year is more impressive than ever. One can foresee that her next exhibit, scheduled for February of 2003 at Sun-Yat Sen's Memorial Hall in Taipei, will again bean overwhelming success.

In my mind, Ling Ko personifies the Buddhist ideal of “compassion for others and transcendence of the separation between self and other". Many years of Buddhist meditation have instilled in her a deep Zen wisdom. A philanthropist as well as a highly creative painter, she is a true bodhisattva who generously contributes to charities, helping countless sick and needy children around the world. Ling Ko presently resides in the Seattle area in the state of Washington.
At the conclusion of this preface, I would like to add the following words of praise:

Contemplating Buddhism during the day,
Meditating tinder the moon,
One progresses to sudden enlightenment among the inks and colors.
Exhaling the old, inhaling the new,
The wind and moon cycle infinitely.
Amidst howling waves and changing clouds,
Myriad forms burst into existence.
Splashes of ink and color intermingle like clouds amidst water vapor.
A beautiful array appears, and suddenly
That which is ineffable can only be intuited.