Took son and Kramer to the Asian Art Museum today and caught “Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy.” Also walked from the museum to the Shooting Gallery, and saw “Steppe Warriors: New Works by Zaya,” which closes today.
Zaya’s paintings were exquisite in their detail and stylization. Self loved the kinetic depiction of horses and waves. Self’s favorite of the dozen or so paintings was one depicting the Mongol invasion of Japan. On the upper right hand corner were a group of Japanese notables, all dressed in sumptuous kimonos, sitting with extreme poker faces as they watched the arrival of the ships bearing the Mongol army. A few soldiers had already been engaged: it seemed the Mongol invaders had the upper hand, for armor-clad Japanese soldiers were already shown expiring on the ground.
And here are a few observations about the calligraphy exhibit at the Asian Art Museum:
- There was one monstrous scroll painting: Self wished there had been more. She must confess to feeling a wee bit disappointed: she loves the huge calligraphic “slash-and-burn” hanging scrolls because there is such power and concentration in each gigantic stroke of the brush.
- Much of the calligraphic artwork on display was on loan from the private collection of Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo. Self never knew that Yang was born and grew up in Taiwan. Funny, she always thought of him as an Asian American Stanford kid.
- There is a behemoth of a book in the gift shop, Five Centuries of Chinese Painting, written by self’s former Stanford professor, Michael Sullivan.
Here are a few notes self scribbled from the (free) audio tour:
- In calligraphy, the creative act is visible. This visibility is central to the work. And it’s also what makes calligraphy such an exciting medium. The Man said he wished he knew what the characters meant. Self was so absorbed in imagining the power of the brush stroke and in examining the geometry of the individual characters that she forgot she was looking at representations of language. Whenever self sees calligraphy, it moves her. She thinks: Slash and burn. Slash and burn.
- The exhibit included modern artists who had been inspired by calligraphy. One artist, Brice Marsden, said, “I use the form of calligraphy, and then it disappears.” Funny, that’s how self begins some of her favorite short shorts. She begins with the structure — perhaps from a story or a poem she is currently reading. As she writes, the model disappears, melts away. All she is left with are the bones of her story.
- She’s not sure if it was also Marsden who said: “The act of creativity existed in the mind before the brush touched the paper.” That’s right! That’s how self begins most of her short stories! She’ll be washing dishes or doing laundry, and then, SHAZZAM! The first step of writing is in her mind — usually as she’s doing homely chores.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.