painted calligraphy 画出来的书法

organizing the chaos

“Painted Calligraphy” is about writing ancient Chinese texts, mostly poems, over and over again. [1]

Painted calligraphy is an ongoing project. There are several series, some of which are dedicated to different aspects. In all of them, however, the technique and philosophy of classical Chinese painting set the tone.

The many overlays can all too easily create chaos. One of the tasks now is to defuse or organize this chaos in advance. In the end, an orderly structure should be created and a meditative quality should be achieved despite the many overlays. With concentration and discipline in execution, one can succeed.

painted calligraphy red ink on xuan paper

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[1] Where did this idea come from? When I was the first and only European to study painting at the Central Art Academy in Beijing in the late 1970s, I was able to fully integrate into the normal classes for Chinese students and it was very gratifying that after a short time, a very warm atmosphere developed to the Chinese colleagues, but also to some teachers, which was hardly restricted in any way by those responsible at the academy.

At that time, China was still very poor. An unforgettable incident is the following: colleague Gǔ came from the country and was particularly poor. Calligraphy was part of the training, and of course, you used the cheapest paper for that – and that was very cheap. But to save even more, Gǔ now developed the following technique: she wrote the first characters with very thin ink, almost pure water. When she had filled the page, she wrote over these characters with slightly darker ink, then again, many months and thousands of characters later, the page was black. But that didn’t stop her from continuing to write about it. Moisture on the dry leaf was enough to make a sign recognizable.

When I left the academy, we students gave each other little souvenirs, as is our custom. Gǔ said sadly that she was very poor and could not have found anything for me that was not very inferior and therefore shameful to her. I asked her if she would give me one of those calligraphy practice sheets. She did so happily, finding it embarrassing at first until I assured her it would be the best present.

And indeed it is. 40 years later I am still happy about this work of art and its deep meaning. Last but not least, it always reminds me of the ideas in Arnulf Rainer‘s overpainting.

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