Thursday, May 01, 2008

Shanghai Museum; Writing

What strikes me again and again when I look at Eastern painting, is the deceptively casual air of it all. These paintings look so light, so breezy, so simple. But they are incredibly practiced and sophisticated. These painters certainly beat our beloved Impressionists to the punch. They were achieving all the same effects (of immediacy, mood, effects of light) but four hundred and fifty years earlier. The sticky oil paints of Monet and Van Goch look so heavy handed by comparison.

I think its also interesting to note the close relationship Eastern painting has with poetry and calligraphy. The great Eastern artists were historically masters of all three. When, after years of careful study, the artist reached his maturity, he was allowed to change his name to symbolize his mastery of his art and of himself. I think this is a beautiful tradition. When I finally make it that far, I plan to do the same.

Even though I can't read the text of these writings, I am struck by the presence of the individual here. We Westerners always hear about Eastern conformity and submission of individual to society and on and on. But there is none of that here. Just passion for the words, energy, charisma and, if I'm not mistaken, real joy. It would take all of the above in massive quantities to do something like this with no mistakes! No two artists are quite the same, and you can read it in each stroke. These paintings inspire me to fill each day with at least one small act of individuality.

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