Archive | April 2015

Impermanence 諸行無常

TaiOiYee-calligraphy

I did this custom calligraphy, 諸行無常 (impermanence), at the special request of a musician who grew up in Japan but has moved to the United States. I guess this has special meaning to him. It is part of the Buddhist quote: 諸行無常 諸漏皆苦 諸法無我 涅磐寂静.

These are the Four Seals of Dharma , the four notions about the world which form the basis of all Buddhist teachings:
諸行無常 – All phenomena are transient – impermanence
諸法無我 – All phenomena are empty and selfless
諸漏皆苦 – All emotions are ultimately painful
涅磐寂静- Nirvana is true peace

This is the feedback he left for me:
“I asked her to create a specific four-character Chinese proverb, which she quickly produced within a day or two after I ordered and promptly posted to me.

Having grown up in Japan, I spent many hours in calligraphy classes. I know that her work only took minutes to create, but I know that this is the result of decades of intense training. The result is intensely beautiful. Her brush technique is impeccable, her expression is elegant, there is a subtle strength and grounding that I can feel through her brushstrokes. She is a superb artist.”  

Thank you, S. Ichiro, for such encouraging words and your support!

 

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Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics

I am now taking an interesting online course offered by Edx.org in collaboration with Tsinghua University:

Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics

EdX offers MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from the world’s best universities and organizations. Online courses from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, Tsinghua and many other universities can be taken here. Many of them are free.

Western and Chinese Art: Masters and Classics:
From da Vinci to Zhang Xu, Wu Daozi and Warhol, explore immortal works of Western and Chinese art and gain an appreciation of culture, history and civilization.


What you’ll learn in this course:

  • Major works of Chinese and Western art, the artists, and aesthetic theories
  • How art can be used to analyze current events, traditions, culture, and society
  • How to compare China and the West and tradition and modernity through art

If you are interested in Chinese and Western art, it is still not too late to enrol in this online course. It’s free and you can learn on your own schedule, why not?

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The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)

Ink wash painting (sumi-e) uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. Sumi-e is the timeless unison of the true self and the universe. When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.

Sumi-e is the expression of the mind and spirit of the artist through the Four Treasures (文房四寶) .

The Four Treasures are:

  • Brush (筆): The ink brush is usually made of goat, rabbit, or yellow weasel hair. The textures are soft, hard or mixed depending on the artist’s use.
  • Ink (墨) : Ink sticks are made of soot mixed with animal glue, and sometimes aromatic or medicinal powders.
  • Paper (紙) : It is not just any kind of paper. It is thin mulberry bark paper (Xuan paper from China and Washi paper from Japan). It is also generically called “rice paper” in the west though rice is not one of the ingredients. It is highly absorbent and unforgiving. The brushstrokes have to be fluid and fast, and mistakes cannot be masked like on watercolour paper.
  • Inkstone (硯) : The inkstone is used for grinding the ink stick with water. The four famous inkstones are Duan, She, Tao and Chengni.

I will discuss each treasure in more details in future blog posts.

 
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Master RuLin-Ni discussing traditional Chinese scroll mounting

Traditional Wet Mounting of Chinese paintings on rice paper is almost a lost art now. I was lucky enough to have taken lessons here in Toronto from Master Shen from Beijing, but I haven’t had much time to practise due to my busy schedule. I should go back for more lessons to hone my skills.

Traditional wet mounting embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork.  Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.

I have found the following video series by Master RuLin Ni 倪汝霖 who is very famous. He discusses and demonstrates scroll mounting in Mandarin, but you can see him in action even if you don’t understand Chinese. After you see the videos, you will realize why it is so difficult, and why it is becoming a lost art. It takes so many days to just mount one painting. That’s why most of the mounting you see nowadays are dry mounted with silicone backing paper, and many of them cheaply machine mounted.

國畫大師倪汝霖老先生談國畫裱褙

This is a series of videos with Master RuLin-Ni talking about Chinese scroll mounting.

Part 1

Part 2

Note: Master RuLin Ni is a very famous Chinese painting artist, especially for his cat paintings. You can see some of his paintings here: http://baike.baidu.com/view/3595182.htm

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

 

I have been getting enquiries from different countries about scroll mounters that I can recommend. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:

If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here are some resources I have found online:

http://www.asianartrestoration.com/
http://www.nationalmuseum.cn/en/survey/introduction/index.jsp
http://www.umma.umich.edu/collections/conservation_lab/eastasian.html

 

 

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