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Modern Chinese Calligraphy


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This presentation accompanied an art history lecture about the evolution of calligraphy in China, from ancient tradition to post-modern applications.

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Modern Chinese Calligraphy

  1. 1. Modern Chinese Calligraphy Kim Munson, Asian Art History, SFSU text © 2008. All Rights Reserved. Artwork shown for academic purposes only, all rights belong to their respective holders.
  2. 2. Calligraphy Concepts <ul><li>China’s written language dates from as early as the 13 th century BCE (Shang Dynasy), and could be even older. </li></ul><ul><li>Calligraphy is a revered art form, learned by copying </li></ul><ul><li>“ the masters.” Emphasis is on purity of form while using </li></ul><ul><li>traditional motifs and techniques. </li></ul><ul><li>Closely tied to Classical poetry. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of the size of the country and the diversity languages spoken, political influence was passed on by writing, not speaking. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Examples of 7 major styles Of Calligraphy. Most styles of calligraphy are adapted from previous styles. This chart shows a progression from contemporary styles to the oldest in order from left to right. Chart by Huang Mizozi
  4. 4. Traditional tools and instructions. The “4 treasures” of the scholar’s studio: Paper, brush, ink block & inkstone.
  5. 5. Traditional methods: From a calligraphy manual written and illustrated by Gu Gan in 1992.
  6. 6. Mao Zedong (1893-1976) Artist unknown
  7. 7. Early calligraphy and Poetry by Mao, 1934. “ Huichang” A new dawn breaks in the East. Do not say “You start too early;” crossing these blue hills adds nothing to one’s years, the landscape here is beyond compare. Straight from the walls of Huichang’s lofty peaks, range after range, extend to the eastern seas. Our soldiers point south to Guangdong, looming lusher and greener in the distance.
  8. 8. Calligraphy and Poem by Mao, 1956 Swimming Now I am swimming across the great Yangzi river… Better by far than idly strolling in a courtyard. Today I am at ease.
  9. 9. Stung by widespread criticism during an attempted period of openness in the mid-50’s and pressures within his party, Mao unleashed the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966. It was an attempt to “smash the 4 olds: old thought, old culture, old customs, and old practice.” He also did this to rid the political hierarchy of anyone opposed to him.
  10. 10. After Mao: President Deng Xiaoping (1904 –1997) attempts a cultural recovery. <ul><li>Professor Zhang Ding, president of the Central </li></ul><ul><li>Academy of Design (pictured here with Picasso </li></ul><ul><li>In 1956) sees a chance for calligraphy to make </li></ul><ul><li>A comeback. The situation was complicated: </li></ul><ul><li>Young people don’t have technique or knowledge of </li></ul><ul><li>classics. Scripts simplified. </li></ul><ul><li>Lots of work for artists: teaching, repairing damaged </li></ul><ul><li>works, publishing & selling to tourists. </li></ul><ul><li>Japanese Calligraphy’s influence: Major shows in 1958, </li></ul><ul><li>1962 & 1978. Some Chinese calligraphers felt that the </li></ul><ul><li>Japanese had transformed the art and liked the </li></ul><ul><li>emphasis on visual aesthetics, but many others felt it </li></ul><ul><li>was “surface” and preferred to draw on what they saw </li></ul><ul><li>as uniquely Chinese calligraphic elements. </li></ul>
  11. 11. 4 Current “Movements” Classical Traditional brushwork and papers. Classical poetry is usually the subject. Neo-Classical Based on traditional style with more self-expressive Modernist touches. Classical poetry or contemporary subjects. Wang Shixiang Han Yu
  12. 12. <ul><li>4 Current “Movements” </li></ul><ul><li>Modernist </li></ul><ul><li>Artists trained in traditional methods, inspired by </li></ul><ul><li>modern Western painting that was finally seen in China </li></ul><ul><li>in the late 70’s after the death of Mao in 1976. </li></ul><ul><li>Avant-Garde </li></ul><ul><li>Artists trained in traditional methods, inspired by </li></ul><ul><li>contemporary Western painting that started to be seen </li></ul><ul><li>in China in the mid-80’s. </li></ul><ul><li>Interested in Post-Modern Theory. </li></ul><ul><li>Some apply traditional techniques to new formats </li></ul><ul><li>(installations, photography, oil on canvas). </li></ul>Gu Gan Wei Ligang
  13. 13. Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) Convergence, 1952 Oil on canvas, 93 1/2 x 155&quot; Pablo Picasso (1881—1973) Pigeon-Pois, 1912 Oil on canvas The Modernists were influenced by Western art, especially by works of the New York School of Abstract Expressionists of the 1950’s (these tours were usually sponsored by the US State Department). European modern masters like Picasso, Miro and Kandinsky were also of great interest.
  14. 14. Gu Gan (b. 1942- ) “ The Mountains are Breaking Up” 1985 Ink on Paper He wrote his most influential book, “ The Three Steps of Modern Calligraphy” while in Germany at the Hamburg Institute of Fine Arts, in which he stated that the ultimate goal of Modernist calligraphy is to provide aesthetic pleasure linked to an idea, rather than following the path of traditional calligraphy, where the focus is often on long passages of text .
  15. 15. Abstracting natural forms: From a calligraphy manual written and illustrated by Gu Gan in 1992.
  16. 16. Abstracting natural forms, using Western examples: From a calligraphy manual written and illustrated by Gu Gan in 1992.
  17. 17. Gu Gan. “The Age of Red and Gold” 2000. Gu Gan was the first artist To use colored ink in calligraphy.
  18. 18. Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925- ) Pilgrim, 1960 <ul><li>The Avant-Garde calligraphers were </li></ul><ul><li>inspired by contemporary art and </li></ul><ul><li>theory, especially by a show in Beijing in the </li></ul><ul><li>1980’s featuring Robert Rauschenberg. </li></ul><ul><li>Generally reject recognizable characters </li></ul><ul><li>Calligraphy both a source of beauty and </li></ul><ul><li>a reminder of the “dark” sides of Chinese </li></ul><ul><li>culture, particularly the pressure to </li></ul><ul><li>conform. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Calligraphic” techniques used in many </li></ul><ul><li>mediums and formats. </li></ul><ul><li>Described as “Visual Music.” Much debate </li></ul><ul><li>about whether the works are should be </li></ul><ul><li>thought of as calligraphy or painting. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Studio of the Chengdu Calligraphy Group , preparing for show, 2004 The artists are: Jiazheng (the Master), Pu Lieping (the established artist), and Ma Kun (the apprentice). Detail “The Peach Blossoms are Like Charming Faces.”
  20. 20. Pu Lieping (1959- ) “ Mossy Lands,” 2004 Chinese Xun Paper, Chinese Black Ink, Synthesized materials. 500 cm x 190 cm
  21. 21. Jiazheng, Pu Lieping, Ma Kun “ Copying Inscription on Turtle Shells,” 2004 Chinese Xun Paper, Chinese Black Ink, Synthesized materials. 500 cm x 190 cm
  22. 22. Zhang Qiang (1962- ) - “Tracelogy ” Building on the idea that the earliest pictograms were said to have been inspired by the footprints or “traces” of birds And animals, Qiang eventually came to the concept that all art is a “trace” of the culture that creates it. Seeking a new way to revitalize calligraphy, he “traces” characters while looking away, as a female assistant moves the paper . She also tells him when to start and stop.
  23. 23. Zhang Qiang - Installation photo of the “Tracelogy Study” 2002
  24. 24. Zhang Qiang – Performance Model/dancer wears paper dress. Qiang paints as the women move around him, and then, with the dress covered with calligraphy, she walks down the catwalk as in a fashion show.
  25. 25. Calligraphy in Installations Xu Bing (b. 1955) “ Books from Heaven” 1988 Thousands of traditional wood-block printed books full of unreadable characters.
  26. 26. Wu Shanzhuan (b. 1960) “ Red Room,” 1986 Installation Signs- political slogans ads, traffic directions, poetry & weather reports.
  27. 27. Wenda Gu “ United nations – man and space” 2002 Utsunomiya Museum of Art, Japan
  28. 28. Wenda Gu “ United 7561 kilometers” 2003 Hair, glue, rope 5000 meters of human braids Made from 7561 kilometers of Human hair with rubber stamps From 191 nations of the world.
  29. 29. Wenda Gu “ Babel of the Millennium” 2000 SFMOMA You may have seen some similar work in the “Half Life of a Dream” exhibition, still at SFMOMA (though 10/5)