Dusti Bongé Asian-inspired painting

More Dusti Bongé sketches through SeeGreatArt’s partnership with the Dusti Bongé Art Foundation in Biloxi, MS. These reveal the artist’s engagement with another artform, and interest in a culture far removed from the one she grew up in and lived with.

As always, interpretation of the artwork comes from Dusti Bongé Art Foundation Executive Director Ligia M. Römer.

Dusti Bongé, Penworthy – Easy Glide Quality Writing Tablet, p.12, 1984, p.12, ink wash on paper, 9” x 6”

This Penworthy sketchbook originally contained 100 sheets. Now 29 sheets remain and each of these has quick ink studies Dusti Bongé did in a calligraphic style reminiscent of Chinese and Japanese art.

Specifically, they are “ink and wash paintings,” or brush paintings, the quintessential way of painting in Asian tradition. They use ink, but not pens; they use brushes, but not oils. In addition, the brush paintings are typically monochrome with a loose, freehand style.

In Dusti’s sketchbook, each sheet contains a simple brushstroke painting of either calligraphic characters, bamboo, fruits, fish, vegetables or landscapes. There are strawberries, bell peppers, a weeping willow tree, bamboo stalks and leaves, and then there is this unusual little landscape.

Unlike Dusti’s landscapes from her early years which were done in the woods of South Mississippi and which were representational, this is an imaginary landscape rendered in the style of Chinese paintings with a layered, extended perspective. This unusual style of landscape painting evolved over a 1000 years ago, when the Chinese thought the purpose of painting was not representation but expression (a very modern idea).

This, of course, is perfectly in line with Dusti’s Abstract Expressionist artistic approach. 

Dusti’s interest in Asian art was inspired by her interest in Buddhism, which started in the early 1950s, and which she revisited in the early 1980s, around the same time that she was introduced to joss paper and started probing the Buddhist concept of the “void” in her artwork.

It makes sense then, that in addition to her delving into Eastern philosophy and culture, she would also experiment with an Eastern aesthetic approach to painting. This ink and wash painting style was a natural extension of her Buddhist pursuit of enlightened thinking.

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