Man and nature – pervasive pattern

A sense of life

Bamboo pervades poetry and domestic life and is a frequent subject of literati painting and calligraphy. Bamboo stems and leaves bear sufficient similarity to calligraphy to inspire comparisons – and the growth of bamboo and the response of its leaves to gravity and weather suggest a model of integrity and necessity. Furthermore, bamboo – the strong hollow tube – is a metaphor for the literati who serve the state and circumstances while controlling their emotions.

ZHENG Xie's 鄭燮 (aka ZHENG Banqiao 鄭板橋 ) (1693-1765) composition of calligraphy and painting uses bamboo to guide a synthesis of calligraphy and painting. The overall composition is defined by strokes that establish the plant. This is informed by careful observation that is formally abbreviated. The force of line is emphasized by small moments of stress – darker ink endpoints in the bamboo segments, tiny sharp lines between them.

The bamboo's stem creates a dramatic division of the space from top to bottom, opening a portion for the inscription to nestle within. Rectangular sections of unpainted white paper form large graphic frames. In a further emphasis, the text is tightly held, its descending progression shifting to echo the binding line of the stem. The calligraphic text itself takes its key from the undulating growth of bamboo using this pattern to give continuity and variety to both individual character forms and the passage as a whole.

Finally, the modulation of ink colour and tone responds to both observation and constructive logic, supporting a sculptural totality that is vivid and alive, twisting and rustling like a bamboo forest.

 ZHENG Xie 鄭燮
(aka ZHENG Banqiao 鄭板橋) (1693-1765)
Bamboo Pair
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
109 x 47cm