Renowned Chinese calligrapher breathes new life into ancient art

Chinese calligraphy is not just an ancient art with rigid rules. It can be modern and reflect an avant-garde spirit. Its contemporary side is now exhibited at the exhibition “From Inception, Wang Dongling 60 Years of Calligraphy” at the Zhejiang Art Museum until November 14.

Wang has been dedicated to training young calligraphers at the Chinese Academy of Arts since the mid-1990s. As one of the country’s most renowned modern calligraphers, his works have profoundly influenced the ancient art of China today.

The history of Chinese calligraphy dates back to 400 BC. It is generally distinguished from other art forms by its emphasis on movement and its reflection of dynamic everyday life.

Zhejiang Art Museum / Ti Gong

Wang Dongling writes calligraphy on the floor. “From Inception, Wang Dongling 60 Years of Calligraphy” is in progress at the Zhejiang Art Museum until November 14.

For years, Wang has insisted that “without innovation, ancient art would lack creativity and modern spirit. Without preservation, calligraphy can develop in the wrong direction.” From the 1990s, he began to explore the modern sides of calligraphy and made a major milestone in the art form.

The exhibition focuses on his exploration of traditional calligraphy with innovative styles such as entangled handwriting (乱 书), large handwriting (巨 书), silver gelatin calligraphy (银盐 书法), calligraphy on bamboo strip and calligraphy presented through immersive virtual reality.

The exhibits showcase his diverse styles, the depth of academic research and the innovation of new media experimentation. The number of exhibitions and art forms are considered unprecedented in the history of Chinese calligraphy exhibitions.

“Professor Wang has tirelessly explored the great tradition of Chinese calligraphy and constantly looking for inspiration across the great horizon of art,” said Gao Shiming, curator of the Chinese Academy of the Arts. “He revitalized traditional calligraphy for contemporary audiences and spread his innovative ideas around the world.”

Wang was an apprentice to Shen Zishan, Lin Sanzhi, Lu Weizhao and Sha Menghai, the last generation of calligraphers who focused on using ink and brush in their daily writing during the 20th century. These masters were also considered to be the last practitioners of the two-millennial calligraphic tradition in China.

Along with the rapid development of media in modern times, Wang turned out to be the first calligrapher to think deeply about the life and death development issues of ancient calligraphy, as well as the gains and losses in the future virtual world.

“I never consider calligraphy as a kind of legacy. Rather, I try to explore the openness and experimental potential of calligraphy. Ancient art can become a genre of modern art,” Wang said. .

At the exhibition, hanging scrolls in four types of script embody his 60 years of exploring the calligraphy revolution. The newly created “Big Writing” installation, which was written to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of Confucius’ death, portrays the educational views of the great philosopher. The shift from traditional cursive writing to tangled form also reflects the artist’s change in inner emotions.

Renowned Chinese calligrapher breathes new life into ancient art

Zhejiang Art Museum / Ti Gong

The hanging scrolls embody Wang Dongling’s 60 years of exploration in the calligraphy revolution.

The artwork “Scholar’s Snow Cave” includes regular small-sized writing and large cursive writing and also contains art forms such as screens, seals, tablets and scrolls. It presents awe-inspiring beauty through calligraphy and shows Wang’s deep immersion and daring innovation.

In the work “Fantasy Land of Calligraphy”, Wang used stainless steel mirrors, acrylic and digital media to express calligraphic ideas. Externally, it is an innovation of tradition with contemporary artistic forms; internally, it’s a return to original simplicity.

“I have often been moved by the explosive power of the oriental art form. Gradually, my goal of developing calligraphy into a pure art became more and more clear during my creative process,” said Wang said.

Renowned Chinese calligrapher breathes new life into ancient art

Zhejiang Art Museum / Ti Gong

Wang Dongling uses stainless steel mirrors, acrylic and digital media to express calligraphic ideas.

In 2005, Wang launched the “Writing and Not Writing” exhibition, which is held every five years in Hangzhou. National and foreign artists present the possibilities of this ancient art in various media. While the exhibition focuses on innovation, people can see how artists are fusing calligraphy with modern life and other cultures.

With the aim of stimulating cultural exchanges between China and other countries, Wang launched another project “Great People Travel the World” years ago. He encourages Chinese calligraphers to attend international art exhibitions and festivals in search of more cross-cultural inspiration.

As a calligrapher, Wang has always been open-minded to emerging media technologies. He always sticks to the idea that talking about new technologies is talking about the future. Therefore, Wang cooperated with new media artists to create a plethora of avant-garde works.

Exhibition “Since its inception, Wang Dongling 60 years of calligraphy”

Date: until November 14, closed on Mondays

Admission fee

Address: 138 Nanshan Rd 南山 路 138 号

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