Zhejiang Art Museum Exhibition “From the Beginning: Wang Dongling 60 Years of Calligraphy”
The exhibition “From Inception: Wang Dongling 60 Years of Calligraphy” opens at the Zhejiang Art Museum on October 16, 2021. This exhibition focuses on exploring the calligraphic art of Wang Dongling over 60 years, from traditional calligraphy to others styles such as Chaos-Writing (tangled calligraphy), Big Writing, silver gelatin calligraphy, calligraphy on bamboo sticks, calligraphy using immersive virtual reality, etc. The long period covered by the exhibitions, the diversity of styles, the depth of scholarly research, and the novelty of media experimentation are unprecedented not only in the history of Wang Dongling’s solo exhibitions, but also in the history of Chinese calligraphy exhibits.
For a calligraphic artist with six decades of experience, Wang Dongling always remains open-minded to emerging media technologies. According to him, a conversation with new technologies is a conversation with the future. In October 2015, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., came to Hangzhou and visited Wang Dongling to learn Chinese calligraphy from him. The event generated a lively discussion by people from all walks of life, at home and abroad. Earlier in 2013, Wang Dongling cooperated with famous new media artist Jeffrey Shaw on “Big Writing”. In 2020, during the global rage of Covid-19, he was invited by American director Peter Sellars to participate in the transdisciplinary art project entitled “This body is so impermanent…”
Wang Dongling has been carrying out extensive and in-depth calligraphy experiments since the 1990s. He never regards calligraphy as a kind of heritage, but promotes the open and experimental potential of calligraphy so that calligraphy, as an art form ancient, can become a member of the contemporary art world.
In the No. 4 exhibition hall of the Zhejiang Art Museum, named “Fantasy Land of Calligraphy”, is a world of colorful glazes illuminated by both lights and colors: abstract ink paintings to silver gelatin calligraphy, to the use of materials like stainless steel mirror. and clear acrylic, and to numerous representations through new media such as calligraphy on the iPad and digital motion capture art.
In Exhibit Hall No. 5, named “Scholar’s Snow Cave”, small-sized works in regular script and large-sized works in cursive script encompass genres of calligraphy such as album sheets, scrolls, tablet inscriptions, screens, etc. , meticulous laws and discipline as well as a grand and particular beauty, these works express the artist’s deep immersion and training in the tradition of calligraphy and his gesture towards bold possibilities of innovation.
The scrolls hanging in four scripts in Exhibit Hall No. 6 showcase Wang Dongling’s six-decade creative journey. The newly created “Big Writing” installation in commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of Confucius’ death depicts the outlines of Confucius’ journey. The shift from traditional deep cursive writing to entangled calligraphy is also a response to the artist’s personal life journey.
Wang Dongling spoke of teaching foreign students and the enlightenment that resulted: “In 1981, I taught calligraphy to foreign students. Foreign students inspired me to look at calligraphy in a new way and to consider how people outside of our circle see the art. My usual practice of calligraphy had become too constrained and monotonous for me. I believe that new ideas must be developed to strengthen and expand the artistic expression of calligraphy. After a conversation with a bearded Colombian student in 1983, I began to practice modern calligraphy “in secret”. “Powerful and Unconstrained (Tian Ma Xing Kong)” was my first modern calligraphy work. I had a starting point to expand my calligraphy skills from there.
In the 1990s, he personally taught at the University of Minnesota and many other higher institutions and was actively involved in academic activities abroad on contemporary art. He said, “I have taught calligraphy at several universities in the United States, Germany and Japan. I have taught foreign students the technique of pen and ink in Chinese calligraphy, but I do not want them to become “Chinese calligraphers” who can imitate the classic works of famous writers such as Yan Zhenqing. Instead, I want them to be able to wield this most basic and traditional artistic language of China once they have mastered and internalized it so that their creativity can flourish and enrich their own artistic creation. “. Discussing his experience teaching calligraphy in the United States, he pointed out that “some Westerners write calligraphy not to write Chinese characters, but to draw abstract images, and they learn calligraphy not to be a Chinese calligrapher, but to learn artistic techniques and draw inspiration from calligraphy to create another art. I began to realize that calligraphy is not only a dialogue with tradition but also with world civilization. It does not It’s not just about a dialogue with contemporary art, but also with the digital.”
Since the new century, he personally initiated the project called “Big Characters Travel the World”, a plan to build Chinese calligraphy writing scenes in the world’s most important art institutions, promoting academic communication between calligraphy and the international artistic circle. According to him, Chinese calligraphers should proactively and confidently enter the international art scenes to enlighten and inspire each other in cross-cultural exchanges. Only by “manifesting the common through differences” can calligraphy find its true origin in cultural dialogues and make its contribution to the culture of humanity as a whole. Accordingly, calligraphy must transcend “the controversy between East and West”.
His works are represented in the collections of the National Art Museum of China, the Palace Museum (Taipei), Peking University, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Library and Archives Canada , the Art Institute of Chicago, the Vancouver Art Gallery, as well as at universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley.
Gao Shiming, President of the Chinese Academy of Arts, said, “How to revitalize the unique intellectual genealogy of Chinese calligraphy in the spirit of cosmopolitan sharing? How to make calligraphy an always lasting and open cause? With his tireless efforts and constant experiences over the past six decades, Wang Dongling provides us with a significant example. For sixty years, he has tirelessly explored the great tradition of Chinese calligraphy and constantly sought inspiration across the great horizon of world art. Through the “Writing•Non-writing” dialectic, he returns to the vital source of calligraphy and opens up its creative space. For calligraphy, he has a great vision: to revitalize the great tradition of calligraphy for contemporary audiences, to spread the Tao of calligraphy in Chinese civilization all over the world. For himself, he has a firm position: to remain indifferent to praise and condemnation, to favor and shame, to live as he wishes, to do justice to this life.