Tide—Inked Spring
Ink, cherry trees, frames, stone, silk, single channel video
Art Space Niji

April - May 2011

A stone basin filled with black sumi ink held a piece of floating silk, upon which a video projection showed a hand and brush painting endless waves. 

Twelve small weeping cherry trees in box frames surrounded the basin, each painted black with ink. With time, flowers blossomed and tender green leaves grew out of the blackness.


The exhibition was held within one month of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami. The brush and unending wave are a nod to the continuum of time that passes, binds and heals, and the live plants dressed in black ink gave testimony to the perseverance and power of renewal.



I first heard the Shanghai-born pianist Fou Ts’ong (b.1934) playing Chopin in Paris in the late 1970s. Compared to the Western pianists I was familiar with, Fou’s performance left a distinct impression, one that seemed deeply entangled with existence.


 His playing was distinguished by its tempo, the progression of time. His fingers placed the sounds within a fundamental spacetime, one very different to either that subjective human sense of time that tells you whether something is too slow or too fast, or to the conscious sense of time born out of modernism that attempts to control space and time. To my ears, it sounded as though the music was being played by Chopin himself, like partaking in communion with the great composer.


Fou’s tempo was not time for the purpose of creative expression, rather it facilitated communication with larger scales of time – the time of existence, cosmic time. For this reason, the expressivity manifested through this tempo possessed a solid, sculptural quality, one that created a vivid sense of pleasure and human time. 


In Jennifer Wen Ma’s installation Tide—Inked Spring at Art Space Niji, a heavy rock is placed in the centre of a small gallery. A depression on top of the rock is filled with black ink, in which is submerged a strip of silk. On to the silk is projected the image of a brush writing endlessly. The stone thus possesses a watery surface in which time wavers unstably. 


Around the rock are placed twelve weeping cherry saplings. Their stems are painted black with the ink. When I visited the gallery, the cherry petals and leaves seemed to burst out from this artificiality, their green and the pink occurring on the twelve branches in their own, individual times. The time of these twelve saplings is here, in the solid time created by the colours. Each of the weeping cherry saplings pursues its own beauty and possesses its own time. In addition, the fact that there are twelve cherries possibly points to the calendar as a representation of nature.

However, time flows on, enfolding and embracing these kinds of expressions, disparities and pauses. No matter how beauty affects us, whether it makes us feel or makes us laugh or crazy, cosmic time differentiates solid time - and returns it to nothingness.


The cosmos, calendars, living things. Cosmic time, natural time, the time of living beings - these three intertwine and in the flow of time and space people live, dance and die. And isn’t that enough?  

Tide—Inked Spring is a contemplative work about the nature of time, and I believe it expresses the majestic time-space continuum which all human beings inhabit.    

– Fujishima Yutaka


Current locations of the sakura trees and stone from Tide—Inked Spring

© 2019 Jennifer Wen Ma

Jennifer Wen Ma

Littlemeat Productions

New York, NY

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