Thursday, March 26, 2009

Li Si: Brush Technique 李斯:用笔法

Li Si (- 208 BC), the prime minister in the Chinese Qin dynasty (221 - 206 BC) and is said to be one of the creator of small seal script. He is also a famous calligrapher. His seal (zhuan) characters are dignifiedly rectangular with strokes structurally balanced, and his brushwork is gracefully stretching, producing a streaming effect, especially in curved lines. There have been many calligraphers versed in this style, but none of them outstripped him.
It is said that he left behind a short essay on handwriting, Brush Technique, the very first practical discussion on Chinese calligraphy. However, many believe that this was actually written by someone in the Song dynasty (960–1279).
The notion of ‘no repetition, nor correction’ of brushworks has led the Chinese calligraphers to put emphasis on the how of writing rather than what is being written. In other words, it is the creative or expressive act that should play a stronger role than the actual compositional aspects of work of art. It is therefore no wonder that, in appreciating a work of Chinese calligraphy, the aesthetic pleasure of the viewer is precisely in following the movement of the brush and tracing the play of the lines.
‘To draw a stroke, back the brush quick, and then launch it out firm. Like the wheeling of a hawk or the passing of a roc, draw strokes at will, no repetition, nor correction. In falling stroke, draw like fish in water; in curved stroke, draw like mist around undulating hills. Rolled or unfurled, light or bold, a right stroke is from reasonable mind.’
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李斯(- 208 BC) 是秦朝 (221 - 206 BC) 宰相。据说是小篆的创造者之一。他也是个有名的书法家。李斯的篆书严谨呈长形,线条匀称,优雅地伸延,有飞动之势。曲线尤其如此。后来精于篆书者故不乏其人,但皆难入其境。
据说他写过短文《用笔法》,是中国谈论书法的第一篇实用论文。但不少人认为这篇文其实是宋(960–1279) 人附会李斯所为。
对笔法提出‘信之自然,不得重改’的看法,导致中国书法家强调书写过程多于其结果。就是说,创作与表现行为比作品的最终结构更为重要。难怪在欣赏中国书法作品时,观赏者的欢愉其实来自追随笔画的运动与追踪线条的踪迹。
‘夫用笔之法,先急回,回疾下;如鹰望鹏逝,信之自然,不得重改。送脚,若游鱼得水;舞笔,如景山兴云。或卷或舒、乍轻乍重,善深思之,理当自见矣。 ’

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