Highlight Piece

Artist : Zhang Dawo  中文版


Zhang Dawo
‘Big Bird’
83cm x 89cm
Chinese ink on xuan paper


Dawo is a member of the Association of Chinese Calligraphers and the Committee member of the Society of Modern Calligraphy and Painting (China). He is the founder of the Australian Society of East-West Art. Writing and Modeling and co-founder of the studio ‘Devil Art’.

Dawo was the first avant-grade Chinese Calligrapher, whose works were collected by British Museum.

What is a “Tushoxian” “barehanded line”? Just as it sounds, it is a line drawn with the power if one’s bare hands, as opposed to the orderly geometric lines of the West. This nimble Tushoxian barehanded line brings in notions of speed and directional motion. It emphasizes vibration in motion and the repeated breaking of the self, finding the rhythm of control within the pauses between rhythm and counter-rhythm. The Tushoxian barehanded line is flesh and bone. In Zhang Dawo’s works, these bitter Tushoxian barehanded line bring the demeanor of struggle, but as they grow with tenacity, they push writing towards flow and vigor.

We can see that the Tushoxian barehanded line series possesses the following traits:

In terms of brush technique: the lines are broken, and kept broken, continuing with the brokenness of the earlier lines with no attempt to bring them back together. This is the air of modernity. There is no whole individual; instead, the traces of life are maintained as relationships with absence. Writing does not ensure the unity or wholeness of the individual. To the contrary, it pushed the individual to venture into the dangers of the world – the world itself is lacking a foundation. Thus, there is no complete line in the picture, but among the breaks of the line, there are no breaks in “meaning.” They are imbued with the faintly discernable pulse of life growing with tenacity. It rises up with a rushed, course brushstroke, as if confronting hardship, yet it holds its head high, and it is full of a mighty grace. It is also astringent and bold, as if there is a partially hidden fire within, the lines pulsing with heat.

In terms of ink technique, he mainly employs brittle ink and viscous ink techniques, as if he has directly lifted the strokes from a late period Huang Binhong painting. Because the lines are finely cracked and astringent, the ink becomes brittle, but owing to the infusion of passion, the explosiveness of that moment that ‘brush’ touches the ‘paper’ is retained. The Splatters of ink, however, are precise, with some of them even seeming to sparkle with life. There are also flows of thick ink that apply the roiling feel of calligraphy twists, as well as the eddies of caoshu cursive calligraphy, bringing rich change to the picture.

In terms of form, things appear tattered and fallen, but they are being ‘preserved’, turning around. The Yin-Yang diagram has been disintegrated so that the atmosphere can respond to each other internally, and within this dispersion and collection, there is rhythm. As the lines strike everything, there is a direction of breakthrough. Or it can draw from photographic images. The scenery of Zhang Dawo’s life in Australia has provided rich nourishment for his visual living perceptions, the sea and the foliage, the waves and the branches, the seagulls and the various animals all roiling and fusing together at the edge of vision to bring about infinite vitality. The imitation of images from nature is the capturing of moments within the dynamic shifts of nature. The secret of the written transformation of Chinese writing is that it faces nature more squarely. The writing of traditional calligraphy takes place facing nature, with various scripts named after things such as grass and snakes, but it virtually never faces the elementality of the sea, never faces tongues of fire or rays of light. When we see Zhang Dawo’s lines, there is an atmosphere of a raging, leaping fire within the scrapes and splatters of the brush.

In addition, the pictures contain large stretches of blankness resounding with the sound of the lines growing and branching, ceaselessly penetrating the ears as if the lines want to extend into an infinite space. There is also the potential for further breakthrough, an opening into a broader world.

(By Xia Kejun, Philosopher, Critic)