The end of a walk through Nothing.
Last post before summer vacation. Vacation? Not vacation in the traditional sense. My insurance plan allows 3 spa stays of 3 weeks each within 5 years. I was only once on a cure, this year again. The funny thing is, the name of the health resort is REDUCE.
It is quite an acceptable facility, a thermal bath with good medicinal water, and above all very quiet, with the best air quality, as more than 60% of the federal state is forest. The excellent cuisine uses food from local farmers.
So for 3 weeks, I will have my old fur brushed, will appreciate the excellent wines of the area, clean up my stack of books and take care of my calligraphy, which I neglect all too often. And so we are in the middle of the topic.
Two new works
I would like to show only two works today, but I would like to take a closer look at one and try to discuss it again from a traditional Asian point of view. And that is very different from the Western one, as we already know. Before that, I would like to show a work by the surrealist André Masson. Masson dealt with Zen painting in the middle of the last century. At that time, not much was known about Zen in the West, but one sensed the world that opened up behind the few strokes of an e.g. Sesshū Tōyō painting. This ink work by Masson below naturally has its appeal, but it basically is still Western-oriented. From an Asian point of view, there is a lack of depth and soul, and due to the little variety in the use of ink, there is also a lack of esprit. 
When I think back to my first years with ink and brush, it was these points that I found most difficult to master.
End of Nothing
The final work in the series, dealing with reduction, has the working title: Another Attempt to Touch the Idea of Zen.
Behind what, on the surface, may seem like a few more or less random strokes, there are considerations that, again from an Asian point of view, are quite self-evident, but for many Westerners are more guessed and felt than actually perceived. I would like to emphasize one aspect that we have already discussed, kai : he (开 合). Open and close.  Not just the opening between the two objects, which creates tension and the closing that goes with it. Rather also the opening to space outside the picture that leads us far into the ether.
Above all, however, it is about creating a maximum of content with a minimum of resources.
My article series The Essence of Chinese Painting, deals with some of these principles of Chinese painting in more detail. In the following picture, we find some of those aspects again in compressed form.
Wandering through a painting
Unlike Western painting, which uses a static perspective, Chinese painting, especially landscape painting, uses a dynamic one. I will write a separate post about this. As already stated in a previous post, the structure of typical Chinese images can be broken down into 4 consecutive parts. qǐ – chéng – zhuǎn – jié ( 起 承 转 结). Another, older, division in image structure would be rù – qǐ – zhuǎn – hé (入 起 转 合 ). In any case, one is of particular importance and that is the flow of Qi (气 qì). 
For a non-Asian painter, it is a special challenge to make the flow of Qi visible in a picture or to let the Qi flow properly. An image without a good flow of qi is like a room or body of water without fresh air. Qi must be able to flow in and through the painting. But it shouldn’t just rush through either. Rather kind of like a small, babbling brook in the mountains. It sometimes flows slower, then faster again, and has to encounter small obstacles that it elegantly avoids, creating a rhythm that the viewer can “walk along”.
And if the painter succeeds in letting Qi flow properly, the picture (or calligraphy) appears to be floating.
In general, the “heavier” an image appears, the more difficult it is to optically create the state of suspension and thus make it flow and float. Above all, however, it is important to create a dialogue between lines and parts in the picture. Ideally, this dialogue appears natural, and informal and at the same time harbors attractive ideas that please the eyes and the mind of the viewer. Like the babbling brook mentioned. Many of these ideas derive from calligraphy, and a so good painting should appear written. (For this reason, we very often find the signature “written by XY” and not painted by XY).
The sketches in gray should help to recognize these lines of force in the picture discussed. If we pay more attention to the white areas in the original picture discussed, the quite heavy picture becomes lighter. When we see the whole thing embedded in the white of the paper or the space outside the picture, the picture begins to float.
Well, if a picture is written (and not painted), we must read it. Calligraphy is usually read from top right to bottom. For images, the entry point may vary. But, as with calligraphy, we must be able to traverse it.
Let’s take a walk now
When we read a picture, we wander through it with our eyes. Let’s play a game again and see what a walk through the image above would look like based on what we just discussed.
We enter the picture at the bottom right 入 and a strong line of force pulls us to the left. (Bottom right corner on the sketch below). At the beginning of the hike, we are full of energy. Again and again we come across opposing forces that slow down the momentum and thus underline the flow of power in the picture – like in this part. Our hike is abruptly stopped at the left before a strong force (承) leads upwards. What follows is an arduous ascent. Our effort is rewarded, a little breather, a bewitching view of a rock massif that rises up from the haze and fog. The force points (weaker) to the top left and (stronger) to the top right, which brings with it strong tension again. (转). The line of force pulls us to the right, and again our path is blocked by obstacles (vertical lines of force). At the very end of our hike, we approach the starting point again – not without great drama. 合 (he), close, is the magic word again.
Pan Tianshou described the part cheng 承 (or qi (起) like this: Imagine an ox cart stuck in the mud. The ox pulls and pulls and all of a sudden the exertion is relieved because the cart has freed itself from the dirt.
If we have understood this principle in the painting, we have taken a big step in our understanding of Asian ink painting. And ideally, we have also come a step further in our thinking and understanding generally.
 André Masson: Eine Kunst des Wesentlichen. Limes. Wiesbaden 1961
 kai : he principle. 开 [kāi] open, open up. 合 [hé] close, whole
 In traditional Chinese painting, the term “Qi” refers to the living energy of what is being painted. The artist’s responsibility is to communicate this energy through their painting. Xie He (谢赫 Hsieh Ho, 6th century) wrote that a painting should have: Breath – Harmony Life – Movement (Qi-Yun Sheng-Dong – 气韵生动). Qi, the first character, primarily means is “life-force.” For Xie He this qi is in all humans, animals, and plants. It is what grants being to everything in nature, everything in the universe. (source: bing)