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The influence of Chinese calligraphy on Western Informel painting

Müller-Yao, Marguerite Hui

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Translation of abstract (English)

This work is an attempt to delineate and analyze the influence of the art of Chinese Calligraphy on the Informel Painting of the West. The notes and comments on the influence of East Asia and the Chinese Calligraphy in the recent literature were limited mostly to only stating the influence of Chinese Calligraphy, without analyzing it more closely, or else they deal only with the influence of Zen philosophy (Chinese: Ch’an) or optionally with the Zen painting, without working out the effective elements and methods of Calligraphy comprehensively in formal terms. One reason for the hitherto rather vague distinction of Calligraphy and Zen as influences in the Informel lies among others in the previously missing detailed individual analysis’ of the artists and especially the calligraphic influenced or inspired works or groups of works, but especially in the previously low considering of Chinese Calligraphy, it’s formal and aesthetic principles.

In contrast to the art of Calligraphy Zen (Chin. Ch’an) is, first of all, not an art, but a philosophy, a religion, or, more precisely, a mental attitude, whose aim is the direct experience of ultimate truths, namely in the 'satori' (Jap.), a state of consciousness, in which the the duality of the world has ended to exist. Artists, who have dealt extensively with the Zen, but have not intensively and not long enough learned the technique and methodology of Calligraphy as an art, and often adapted only some aspects, like especially the moment of the speed of execution (Mathieu and others), and who therefore lack the mastery of the typical calligraphic ductus, can therefore at most be considered as "inspired", what applies to most of them. Other artists, who like Tobey or Masson, partly Graves, practiced and internalized the technology and methodology, and thus learned the typical space-plastic ductus, can thus record a real "influence", because they have endeavoured to master and assimilate all the important elements of the calligraphic art. The main focus is therefore put on the investigation of the "influenced" artists, especially Tobey and Masson.

The Zen thinking, which originated in China and, subsequently, also in Japan since the 6th century AD, is first and foremost a way of cognition or cognitive attitude, it is used as attempt to access the latest and highest transcendent truths. Its bases lies in East Asia already in the first millennium BC (and earlier), in the worldview and epistemology of the I-Ching, the "Book of Changes", and the teachings of Lao-tzu in the Tao-Te-Ching and the doctrine of the first principle Tao contained therein, which unfolds in the dualistic-polaristic principles Yin and Yang in the world. Through the Chinese Taoist thoughts elements of Zen are also included in the principles of Calligraphy. The Chinese Calligraphy is the artistic performance or art form of Chinese writing, whose basic element is the linear-structured character as a carrier of meaning, information and aesthetic principles.

The most important element of Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy and Painting, which will be discussed intensively in this work, is the line. In China (as in Japan), the Calligraphy, so the performance of writing as an art, is considered as the first and highest form of art, it ranks ahead of painting, because its principles and characteristics are identical, or such that the foundations and principles of Calligraphy rank before and above the painting. This was well known by André Masson and Mark Tobey. Both artists, Tobey and Masson, belong to a small but important group of artists who, scattered all over the Western Hemisphere, are not organized, and whose common link primarily is an unusually strong interest in the art of a different culture, that of the Far East, and particularly in the art of Chinese Calligraphy. Other artists besides Tobey and Masson have been interested in this Calligraphy, like Aléchinsky, Alcopley, Bissier, Degottex, Graves, Hartung, Mathieu, Michaux and some others, in whose works and statements more or less clear and intense an inspiration by the Chinese Calligraphy can be demonstrated, but who had, however, not as intense practiced and internalized the specific technology and methodology, and therefore can only be considered as "inspired".

This paper tries to identify this "influence" as well as the nature and extent of the "inspiration", to show their origins and backgrounds, the different accents in the work of various artists and the effects and consequences, as far as possible, in the work of these artists.

As the importance of Tobey and Masson is most significant, both in terms of the influence as well as in their passing of it, the work has been limited to the more detailed study of these two artists. The influence of the art of Chinese Calligraphy is also a stage of the cross-cultural relations between the culture and especially the arts of East Asia on one hand and Europe and America on the other hand. The work is divided into five main sections or chapters. Following the Introduction (Part I), first, the essential characteristics of the Informel Painting and its trends, including an ideological substantiation (Part II), and then a detailed analysis and description of the features and principles of Chinese Calligraphy is conducted (Part III). In this process the distinction of merely "inspired" (Mathieu etc.) and “influenced” artists is being considered in reviewing the “inspired” artists in connection with the determination of features and characteristics of the Informel (Part II). Following the characterization of the nature and the essential characteristics of Calligraphy (Part III), the “influenced” artists Tobey and Masson are presented most intensively and examined for the effects of the calligraphic impulse in their works (Part IV). The fifth chapter then presents a summary and lists possible conclusions to be drawn from the investigation.

Document type: Book
Place of Publication: Düsseldorf
Date: 2015
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2016 15:17
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Painting
Controlled Subjects: China, Kalligraphy, Informel, Malerei
Subject (classification): Painting
Countries/Regions: Asia
Additional Information: Englische Übersetzung der deutschprachigen Dissertation der Verfasserin "Der Einfluss der Kunst der chinesischen Kalligraphie auf die westliche informelle Malerei", siehe Link "Verwandte URLs"