> 18 arts and crafts

18 arts and crafts

2008-05-04 - jjackunrau

I remember first arriving in China and wanting to get into Chinese stuff. The traditional arts and things. Calligraphy. Tai Ji. I tried both of those at various Summer Language Programs in Beijing. Calligraphy is still something I think I could get okay at. With practice. I do enjoy making characters with a pen, so it’s just that much better with a brush isn’t it? Down at Zhi Mian they’ve got a calligraphed thing on the wall which was done by someone with his finger. I can’t remember if the guy had special connection with the institute or if it was what he’d written, which was blotchy as hell and difficult to make out. And at the mountain there was a bookstore with a dozen signed books in a glass case. Chinese signed books are a bit cooler than plain old English. You seem to see more character even in the simple sharpie lines. Just smooth like these writers spent their time writing. Who knew?

In terms of Tai Ji though, I was hopeless. I love the motions and the slowness and the stillness. But. I can’t follow along with a teacher in the patterns. In that courtyard I’d have to be craning my neck to see what was happening and then I’d lose my spot and quickly catch up, which sort of defeats the purpose. Holly’s learning an 86(?) step path and is somewhere around movement #4. Another woman in her class has been studying for two years and will almost know the whole thing. She encourages Holly to take it slowly, that way she’ll learn the moves correctly. There’s also the slight issue that Holly doesn’t know the names of all the moves just yet so when the instructor calls out “Pure Dragon Commences Up the Yellow Mountain … in Autumn” she has to watch to see which moves that corresponds with. A book would be helpful for this area of things. Just to get the names internalized. And being able to spout off like a Kung Fu master wouldn’t hurt too badly.

Chinese paintings with their big world, little person aesthetic are very pleasing. I suppose I should have prefaced that with Traditional. There’s lots of art out there that looks nothing like serene cliffs in the mist. Paintings that play with communist themes. Big people. All those baby Maos in that one gallery, huge and stark. Where did I read about that Da Shan Zi district being a place to rip off tourists with inauthentic contemporary art? Somewhere virtual I’m sure. I really liked some parts of that district. Especially that gallery 731? No that’s the Japanese biowarfare number. 716 maybe. [It’s 798.] In any case, those miners and the lily-footed women pictures were enough to give me a positive feeling about it all. I wonder if there’s an artist district here in Nanjing or if everyone’s too busy being a southern money-maker to have any time for art. I should go wandering around Nan Da. There must be art students there.

The problem I have with the notion of buying art here is that the mass produced scroll paintings you get up at Beijing’s Pearl Market seem so similar to the ones hanging in galleries. But are they the equivalent to velvet Elvii? Probably. It’s one thing for my mom to have a cheap scroll inher house but I feel like I’m supposed to have good taste in these things. The problem is that I have never hung out with artisty types in China. I don’t know what to look for in good art. Yes yes it doesn’t matter. I should just get something I like the look of. I know. And I do. One of Holly’s old erhu teachers is learning how to do traditional ink painting. It’s all about how the ink flows over the page. You can’t quite harness it but can guide where it might end up if you know your tools well.

art beijing calligraphy da shan zi holly nan da nanjing scroll painting tai ji the hangman zhi mian