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Monday, February 06, 2006

Principles of Chinese Art




From a little book on Chinese watercolors come these elements of the art.

chi - life spirit capturing the "inner truth of the subject."

ku - the structural strength of the brushwork; "simplicity, speed and spontaneity are the mark of a master's brush strokes."

outward likeness

natural coloring

the harmonious composition of the picture as a whole

mimic the masters
- learn by copying the work of the masters.


These simple rules parallel the core of poetry. To be specific, all but the final one reflect an imagist style. Capturing chi, if such a thing is possible, also reproduces what little I know of the zen model, the art of the haiku. ku reproduces the vital core of an object, it works as the frame to allow the chi life. The holistic and harmonious image contains within itself various sub- principles. For example, pin chu or the host-guest principle, brings balance with a passive and an active element bound together in an image. Typical pin chu imagery in Chinese paintings might be a butterfly (active/host) and a flower (passive/guest). Such paired elements in a picture work to provide harmony, an interdependent, symbiotic whole. There is innate strength in such a relationship (ku).

2 comments:

Lyle Daggett said...

Ann, enjoyed this post. It made me want to go look for books on Chinese watercolor. Or more generally, Chinese art. (The Minneapolis Institute of Art has a very good East Asian wing, including fully constructed period rooms from various periods in China and Japan. I've seen some remarkable work there over the years.) In general, art from thea part of the world is my favorite type of art overall.

Really liked the Chinese painting you linked too also.

Ann said...

Lyle -
I can offer one title for you: The Art of Chinese Watercolours by Aamanda O'Neill, Parragon Books, 1995. It's a great little guide. I need to visit Mnpls too!
Take care - Ann