Being a wanderer in Asian culture.
I discovered calligraphy about two or three years ago. I was writing
poetry and a friend of mine drove my attention to short poems, haiku
and calligraphy. I was seduced by what can be achieved by calligraphy
and may be associated with the notion of satori or a sudden poetical
enlightenment / awakening.
I tried Chinese, Japanese and Arabic calligraphies. Tibetan calligraphy
was the most appealing to me. Maybe because Tibet’s culture is
endangered. Tibetan people have to struggle to keep their culture alive
and struggle against the mechanisms with which the Chinese government
tends to erase one of the most ancient cultures and languages.
Nevertheless, my path is the one of a profane, I am neither Tibetan nor
have an extensive knowledge of this culture. I am wandering in the
Asian culture like a barbarian, playing with brushes, ink and knives. I
am neither a purist nor a traditionalist, but I have been influenced by
many books (In praise of the Shadows, by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki ; Essays
by Shitao ; The art of calligraphy : joining heaven and earth, by
Chogyam Trungpa ; see also Jigme Douche’s Tibetan calligraphies). I
have the deepest respect for the art of calligraphy.
We will resume The Wandering Moleskine Project soon.
I leave you with this thought:
Anne Michaels, FUGITIVE PIECES
Have a nice weekend everyone. Get out, have a life – and write about it! See you on Monday.
Featured Artist: Nathanael.Archer
Like a bird hitting a stone, the decisive step for me came with the opportunity to join a two-day training of Tibetan calligraphy, organized in
Paris by the French Drophen association – www.medecinetibet.org/.
This training course definitively gave me the taste for
calligraphy. In a way, I fell in love with the way letters and words
could be drawn in Tibetan : specially considering the Umé/Umey
calligraphy, which is more artistic than the Uchen. I started to learn
the general principles of Tibetan script with Uchen (mainly used for
printing religious scriptures), before attempting to draw words using
the Umey written letters, enabling quick-hand forms.
Since I was, and still am I, at the beginning of my journey in Tibetan,
I also started to learn, by myself, how to carve seals. Seals are part
of Asian calligraphies. In the book ‘Passagère du silence’ which
recalls the teaching she got in China about calligraphy, Fabienne
Verdier reports that she began her training of calligraphy while
learning how to engrave seals with a Master. In the Japanese tradition,
the artist can print his name or sign on the left of the calligraphy
whereas carved poems can be printed on the right side. Seals play a
very important role in Asian calligraphy, their print equilibrate a
There are many steps before starting to carve a stone that require you to empty your mind. First, you have first to prepare the stone: flatten and smoothen out the surface to carve, e.g. using fine grain
sandpaper. Then you prepare and sharpen the blade of the tools
used and finally you prepare the pattern (position of the
characters, balance the pattern). I usually draw the pattern on
paper, then reverse the pattern and draw it, using a pencil, on the
smooth surface of the stone. Then, you have the choice to carve the
pattern (white carve), or to carve around the drawn pattern (red
carve). Once carved and washed, the seal is ready to be used, dipped
into ink and printed onto paper.
While collecting informations on Tibetan seals, I recently discovered a
strange script, labyrinth-like, called Phags Pa, used mainly in China,
Tibet, Mongolia – but also in Old Uighur and other Turkish, as well as
in some Persian languages. Phags Pa script is the one I am currently
exploring to make new seals.
Day after day, I learn Tibetan calligraphy, while I remain on the
surface of things, like a barbarian could cherish an object of which he
could hardly understand the significance."