Asian calligraphy is the reason I make art

My earliest brush with ink

The striking balance of black on white calligraphy is deeply etched in my mind since I was a child.

My earliest memory of Chinese new year isn’t that of the 12 different sweets in the ‘complete’ snack box, or the never ending feast. And, definitely not for the visiting relatives.

Every year before not yet spring, my grandpa sets up a folding table in the centre of the living room. He then rolls out special red paper which stains everything on contact. Next, into a white porcelain dish, he pours sumi ink from a bottle, creating the most contrast of glossy black pool sitting a top a soft bone white border.

Using a chinese calligraphy brush (which, to a child, looked like tiny mops in bamboo casing), Grandpa writes Chinese greetings, in pairs of 4 Chinese characters, to adorn each side of the doorway. Ours and some of his favourite neighbours’.

These 8 pictographs hanging at our doorway was mesmerising to me. I thought they were like 8 icons, or pictures, or symbols came alive, blessing our entrance to a place we call home.

Drawing brush is my magic wand

A wide range of marks can be created with a single brush. The range of possible marks increases with brush size. Control increases with bristle stiffness.

One brush to draw thick, thin, wash, hairline. One brush draws it all. To me, it’s magic.

A match for the racing mind

My mind loves racing.

Drawing is my valiant attempt at capturing some (if at all) the emotions that flash and otherwise disappear.

There is hardly time for any mark making medium to linger on a spot, let alone change medium for different expression.

The drawing brush, for me, is the best performer for this near-impossible task, yet.

Art influenced by Chinese calligraphy

Perhaps due to the early exposure to calligraphy, I can’t quite shake the high contrast aesthetic off my back.

With any of my drawing (and even doll making), the result is often perceived simplicity.

Emotions is conveyed through the quality of the inked line (and the stitch rhythm in dolls), which, often, may harmonise or contrast the content. 

For example: an angry rabbit drawn with a pensive mark, or a docile cat created with decisive heavy lines.

The result echoes the ironies of life.


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