Coevolution and Speciation in Contemporary Chinese Calligraphy.
The Evolution of Hsu Yung Chin’s Modern Calligraphy
by Bai ShiMing Ph.D, Professor, Deparment of Art, Shida University, 2014
How can Chinese calligraphy become more contemporary? What would a contemporary calligraphy even look like? These types of questions imply that calligraphy is something static, which it is not. It is an artform always in flux. Throughout Chinese calligraphy’s long history, it has been practiced by Confucianists, Taoist, and Buddhists. No matter who was practicing it, calligraphy has always been an important part of East Asian culture. Today, because Chinese calligraphy is used less and less, its evolution has slowed. So much so that it may appear static to many. How then can Chinese calligraphy remain a relevant part of contemporary culture?
While the idea of a modern calligraphy is already a part of contemporary culture, its aesthetic has yet to be defined. What ideas should guide a modern calligrapher? What parts of the old artform should remain in the new? It was these types of questions that caused a group of Japanese calligraphers to declare “the end of Chinese calligraphy era”. It was a call to abandon the traditional scripts, calligraphers, ancient works and theories in order to create a new model upon which a reinvigorated era of calligraphy could take hold. They wanted to move beyond the traditional symbolism and cultural heritage of Chinese calligraphy and forge an, “intercultural, interracial, interlanguage…mixed cultural type [of calligraphy].” The influence of this Japanese calligraphy movement has been broadly felt and their ideas have started to become the foundation for modern Chinese calligraphy.
Taiwan has been a part of this modern calligraphy movement since 1990. Hsu Yung Chin was one of the original artists who was sensitive to the need for an avante garde calligraphy. Hsu said that, “Traditional calligraphy is already disconnected from modern times. If it does not transform, it will die out. We need to develop a new type of visual art and move beyond the conventions of traditional calligraphy. This is not a criticism of traditional calligraphy, instead, it is a way to construct a modern aesthetic for Taiwanese calligraphy, one which places the emotive above the functional.”
The tools of calligraphy, the techniques behind the styles, and the rules of character construction are the building blocks upon which calligraphy’s aesthetic is first formed and from which it further evolves. By using these fundamentals in a variety of ways, an evolution occurs, one where new species of calligraphy split off and become something unique.
In Hsu’s over 40 years of practicing calligraphy, he has created many ideas and aesthetics which have grown and split off into new ideas themselves. This is how a modern aesthetic is nurtured and developed. Today, Hsu is taking modern calligraphy even farther than before. His recent works are all fresh and emblazoned with truly living scripts. These vital works contain characters which which transmit something far more than words ever could. They breathe and have a pulse. It is this way because the art is a part Hsu Yung Chin. He transmits his ever changing perspective and experience of life on to the page. It is in this way that he produces his vision for a modern calligraphy. One where the tools have been transformed into art, where innovation trumps tradition, where perception is more important than knowledge, and most importantly, where being true to yourself, and your evolution, is more important than abiding by authority.
|Tao Te Ching, 70cmx240cmx6, Ink on paper, 2013, Hsu Yung-Chin|