Exploring Calligraphy…

image1-2The reason behind my “not wanting” or “lacking talent” to become a calligrapher is perhaps due to personality of my not liking to be restricted within a structure. When I was in elementary school, my handwriting often went out of the squares (for practice of writing Chinese characters). Maybe it indicated my inclination to be “out of frame”.

I enjoy handwriting. However, in calligraphy, there are some basic rules one needs to follow. Even renowned calligraphers are no exception. Usually the greatest breakthrough in the field of calligraphy is more or less in aspects of technique or refinement in matureness. My way of doing calligraphy does not obey any rule but is rather spontaneous, more like “playing” in the sphere of contemporary art. It is not that I had such an idea at the beginning — it is more accurate to say that it has been an exploration along the way. Without fixed technique or approach, therefore without requirements of a solid foundation of basic skills, the “style” has certainly evolved in the process.

Because of this, it is difficult to have any sort of “breakthrough” in my works of calligraphy. After following the copybook of “Cao Quan” style, I lost interest in ancient copybooks. The only option left for me seems to be “just going” and see how far I can go. Quite unexpectedly, one day in New York, I thought of drawing the character “禪” (Chan)like a graph of “sitting meditation”. All of sudden, it felt like a state of enlightenment! Then I recalled that Master Hong Yi (弘一大師) had said “Calligraphy should pay attention to the structure of the character”, and such structure is related to graphs since Chinese characters are originally figures or diagrams. This is true especially in the early development of Chinese characters. Master Hong Yi is very skilled in the art of Chinese “seal carving”, in which the designs are based on graphs. The carved characters are figures of lines, from which the structure is designed with squares, circles, or other shapes. The finished work then has a very pleasing visual aesthetic impact.

So, I drew the right half of the character “單” as a person seated and the left half “示” like a lamp — Sitting symbolizes stillness or samadhi; the lamp symbolizes wisdom – Thus, the character “禪” (Chan) is turned into the unification of samadhi and wisdom. From this particular character the similarity in the origins of calligraphy and painting was revealed. Because of this realization, the spatial dimension of my calligraphy suddenly became limitless…

(2013/7 written in Taiping, Malyasia, during Chan retreat for college students)


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