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Post #987 • April 11, 2007, 6:12 PM • 7 Comments

Boston—This kind of handling of ink figures so largely in my own work that frothing is more likely to ensue than critique, but here we go anyway. Weng Tonghe, you may recall, is the Weng patriarch who began the collection currently on display at the MFA. Why one stroke? Because executed at this scale, two or three feet high, the artist expresses tiger-ish energy, direct, strong, slashing. (What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry? If we took Blake's couplet as a koan, this work would be a mighty answer. See also Dogen's just paint Spring.) It's worth speculating that Weng's skills as a calligrapher and his skills as a collector might have something to do with one another, with possible implications about the relative expertise of a certain kind of collector we enjoy poking fun at around here. This work also provides an opportunity to admire Chinese ink. I've brushed out above-average samples (but by no means top-notch ones) side by side with Western ink in the studio, and in comparison the latter resembles the dampness you might squeeze out of an umbrella. China takes ink seriously like Italy takes wine seriously, and a good formulation exerts astonishing tinctoral power, capable of leaving flying white marks (prominently featured below) with the barest force of the emptying brush, and providing tonal depth even to the dilute areas. Then there's the component of Weng himself. 虎 indeed.

Weng Tonghe (Chinese, 1830–1904): One-stroke calligraphy of the character hu (tiger), Chinese, Qing dynasty, 1890, ink on paper, Wan-go H. C. Weng Collection, courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston











Marc Country

April 11, 2007, 6:31 PM

As I read the first sentence, I stumbled on "ink figures", as if they were a kind of figure made of ink. I think the problem is the two "of"'s, which make me misread it. Maybe it'd be clear to say, "This kind of ink handling figures..." instead...

I know, I'm too critical....



April 11, 2007, 6:48 PM

The first detail is delicious. Like molten black velvet.



April 11, 2007, 8:30 PM

If David Thompson's article taught us anything, it's that doing anything in a single stroke is now nearly impossible. Before a postmodernist would even take a stroke, they'd have to take inventory of everything Foucault, Derrida, etc might have said about said stroke...every move is loaded to the point of inaction.

The most admirable move is to move without a slowing relflection, as these works do.



April 11, 2007, 11:40 PM

Bold/Simple - pertainent !



April 11, 2007, 11:43 PM

Fred Liang understands Campbell.


lothar, hand person.

April 12, 2007, 8:24 AM

There's an interesting interview with Terry Winters at
that some of yous may be intersted in.



April 15, 2007, 5:28 AM

... say that genius get nothing while nepotism get more friends and fifteen minutes of friends at that.



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