Chinese Calligraphy and Ink and Wash Painting

china_Chinese herbal medicine and tea setCalligraphy is a highly respected and ubiquitously practiced art form originating in China with several different styles. These range from the wispy and grass like cursive script, which is incredibly hard to read due to its radical brushstrokes resulting in a highly personal type of calligraphic handwriting for individual artists, to the more standardized clerical and traditional regular scripts. In the creation of calligraphy, traditionally a standard set of tools is used referred to as the “Four Treasures of the Study”. These are the brush, ink, paper, and ink stone. Ink and wash painting, a style of brush painting in East Asia, has many similarities with Chinese calligraphy. They not only use the same set of tools in their creation, but the process of creation involves many of the same principles. In both Chinese calligraphy and ink and wash painting, the artist is trying to capture the ‘spirit’ of the character or subject matter. This is achieved not only through the brushstrokes of the painter or artists, but also how he or she uses their body. This makes them both dynamic and highly charged art forms with great emphasis on motion. Traditionally, good calligraphy is seen as characters which are: written correctly according to the generally accepted form; legible to those people who are trained to read that particular style; concisely formed and plain without flourishes – i.e. sans serif; contextually suitable – that is to say that a calligrapher must know the meaning of a character, and when copying another’s work, must know the context in which it was written, as this all affects how the writer handles not only their brush but also their body (factors which are reflected in the character when written); and aesthetically pleasing – which usually results from good practice of the above mentioned factors. Ink and wash painting is similar to this in that good painters are efficient artists who use the fewest possible brushstrokes to capture the spirit and soul of the scene or subject being painted. As a result, it is the artists use of the white space of the paper that is particularly effective – i.e. the brushstrokes they haven’t used, rather than have.