Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The Tao of Painting

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Fisherman by Wu Zhen

In stilling the heart an individual can become one with the elements of nature, the great creative forces of the Tao. This becoming one is the true meaning of wholeness. In painting, this goal is translated into the aim of the painter to identify himself with the object depicted, that is, to relate that in himself with that in all things which shared the Oneness of Tao

Such results are possible only after the painter has reached an advanced stage of cultivation and technical skill, the stage at which rules and methods are no longer consciously applied but are implicit in the results. It is the stage when the ch’i of the painter is effortlessly transmitted through the painting. In one respect, it might be described as the stage at which his whole personality is revealed in a painting, since the coordination of his brushstrokes and of the composition is a direct expression of his character. Such an interpretation, however, misses the vital point: that all the steps of the painter’s arduous training, all his accumulation of all the means available, all his efforts in the long process of his development of the self, should be directed by the concept of Tao and so be ritual acts sanctifying the painting that he produces. Then the tactility of brushwork is evidence less of the personal touch than of the power of Tao. The anonymity of the ritual act is, in effect, oneness with Tao. And painting is not self-expression but an expression of the harmony of Tao.

Mai-Mai Sze, The Way of Chinese Painting

Written by nevalalee

May 26, 2014 at 7:30 am

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