LECTURE & DEMO: Arnold Chang – September 29, 2019

thank you for coming I’m how is that too loud I’m delighted to see such a good turnout this afternoon especially when the weather has gone so on us but here we are for the 20th year of the Mildred Schnitzer lectures in Asian art and I want to give a shout out of thanks to Mildred’s daughters two of them are with us this afternoon Dori and Susan would you be kind enough to stand up and be recognized by the audience Mildred three daughters and quite a few members of the Asian Art Council who were dear friends of Mildred Schnitzer contributed to establish this fund in 1975 and people have continued to contribute so this is the oldest funded lecture series at the Art Museum and it has been a wonderful way for us to bring in esteemed scholars and curators from all over the country and here on our sort of 20th anniversary it’s only the second time that we’re bringing in an internationally renowned artist I am so thrilled and honored to introduce today’s speaker whose disappeared Arnold where are you somewhere over there Arnold okay whose career I have followed with great interest for a long time we’ve often been in the same place but at different times we have many shared friends and in the times that I have known about him my knowledge of him has evolved from being a very astute connoisseur of Chinese painting who established the Chinese painting program at Sotheby’s in New York at a time when there really wasn’t a market for Chinese painting in North America he was with Sotheby’s for 15 years and then he moved to Chi code which is a private gallery if you’ve come to New York with me for Asia week you have visited them Keiko doe is I think quite distinctive in New York for being founded by scholars and so Arnold’s was with them for 10 years and that’s when I sort of really began to learn how about but now he has transmogrified into being a full-time very successful and greatly admired artist let’s see what else did I want to say hmm oh yes okay you have other information about him in your handouts and he will tell you more about his life and his he had a very unusual journey to become a painter crossing paths with the unquestionable luminaries of both scholarship and painting in this country and now I have an updated list of where the museums that have his paintings the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York the British Museum the Phoenix Art Museum the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco LA County Museum Chicago Art Institute and at universities Harvard Princeton Yale Cornell and UC Berkeley and I hope that you will help me add our name to that list so Arnold Chang thank you I’m like okay I’m a my mic can you hear me oh that’s great all right so where’s my clicker spoiler alert the title of my talk is does the past have a future in traditional Chinese baby the answer is yes so this is me I grew up in New York City so that’s me at the age of 10 the tough guy as most New Yorkers are and it was a year before 1963 that I saw my first exhibition of Chinese paintings we grew up in New York as I mentioned my father and mother both came from China my mother was half Scottish and half Chinese we lived in New York with my Scottish grandmother so English was our first language and we lived a very kind of what I guess the hope the point of that generation of immigrants was for us to assimilate so I wasn’t really steeped in Chinese traditions and culture from a young age but then I went to this exhibition and of all places of Herschel Adler galleries in New York City and I saw this work by this man named John yet here’s a photo of him he’s he’s probably

the most famous 20th one of the most famous 20th century Chinese artists and he lived in South America as well as in Carmel California and so if you want to learn one important Chinese artist named for the 20th century that’s one of the ones you you must know he’s also one of the most popular in terms of the marketplace and for at least a couple of years the total sales of his work at auction exceeded Picasso so he’s somebody everybody knows Picasso everybody in China knows Picasso but nobody not that many people of course you know because you’re in Friends of Asian art but most people don’t know John anyway it made such an impact on me that it really changed the course of my entire life John Bachchan was a remarkable painter he worked in lots of different styles he could do fine line figures he could do splashed color landscapes he could do lotus flowers huge lotus flowers with with broad brushstrokes and as a young 10 year old or nine year old it just totally blew my circuits because I’d never seen anything quite like it so this is me in high school as you can see I went to the Bronx High School of Science so in New York there are specialized high schools that you have to take a test for so I took the test for for both broad science and for music and art high school and I made the choice to the sensible choice to go to Bronx Science because it was it was higher academic you know credentials were higher and it seemed to be the better place to go but once I got there well you can see it it wasn’t quite me if you know what I’m saying now had a Oh most of my friends went to music and art and most of them in fact were musicians but I decided to go to Bronx Science and do the right thing and hated every minute of it so well while my my classmates were taking a Astro geophysics and all this these great electives I was trying to do art and creative writing and stuff like that anyway while I was in high school I continued a little bit of my interest in Chinese painting and my father when he was back in China had actually been a photographer as a young person had had had taken very good photos and even won some prizes according to what my mom told me and this is a painting that I did that is based it’s a kind of a copy of one of my father’s photographs in fact it was the only one that my mother still had and you know it got the feeling of a Chinese painting it’s not really a Chinese painting in the sense that it’s on watercolor it’s with watercolor black and gray watercolors on on watercolor paper but that was my first attempt at doing something that sort of look like a Chinese painting because it was based on a photo taken in China and at that point I asked my father if he could find me a teacher because I was interested in learning more seriously about Chinese painting the man he found was this guy named Wang Zhi un he happened to have a studio a little a called at the school of Chinese brushwork which was actually an apartment which which as fate would have it was was across the street from our apartment on East 72nd Street so I went there to learn Chinese painting from him now I didn’t know who he was you have to bear in mind also that I didn’t speak a word of Chinese growing up we all spoke English in the household my parents spoke Shanghai dialect with each other and they both spoke Mandarin but as kids we never learned it and his English was pretty poor but it turns out I learned this later that back in the day he had in when he was in China he as a young man he was considered really forward-looking really avant-garde because he was doing Western art so he was learning from European and you know Matisse and all these kind of things and so in in China back when in the 30s and early 40s he was considered like you know ahead of his time so he emigrated to the United States in in the early 40s and found out when he got here that what he was doing here was not particularly popular and he couldn’t really find a niche because he wasn’t all that special once he got to New York and so he went back to ink painting now he even had organized an exhibition of modern Chinese paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1943 which nobody

nobody knows about and included quite a few of his own so at one point you know he was pretty well known but what his whole approach was he was trying to develop a hybrid style that that used Chinese materials brush and ink but it’s sort of modernizing it in terms of subject matter in terms of approach so he did like like a you know a scene of I guess that’s an East River or some new york’s river scene and he did these kind of apples in the sort of say sign s met matter you know mode but with traditional Chinese brush and ink and so that was his approach and I think the approach of a lot of artists of that generation of trying to modernize what they considered to be a tradition that was sort of in the in the decline now because my father introduced me to him he he was a friend of my of Jiang Chen that first artist like I saw I showed you so so my father thought that this guy will be good and because I have you know Chinese heritage he decided that it was it was important that I had to do Chinese calligraphy before I could do Chinese painting so the writing comes first now that didn’t necessarily take into the account that I didn’t know any Chinese but I dutifully and I had no idea what this meant I thought okay we’ll you know he’s had me copying characters so I copied some carries for will do this for a week or two and then with you know all the other students were sitting around using brush and ink and and doing you know still lives which was also kind of weird and looking back and was sort of a weird approach it was it was doing still lifes but using Chinese materials which which is not you know which again is a kind of hybrid approach but anyway so he had me doing these Chinese characters and I was copying them copying goodbye didn’t know really what I was writing so I went to probably one of the few people who learned to write before I could either speak or read but the thing about it was I got into it because I really enjoy the feeling of brush and interacting with white paper and and I just you know got into it and this was a few years later but I used to I used to practice for hours at a time and so I figured you know if I’m gonna do this I should sort of learn Chinese so that’s what I do that’s what I did I went to the University of Colorado in Boulder because it was pretty and and I started as a studio art major but those were the days when the way they taught art was was you know you just have to be creative do your own thing original and all this nobody taught you how to draw and nobody taught you how to paint and then they would have us do these projects and and I would love the idea of going to the studio late at night and listening to music and doing my doing my my artwork but and but then they would you know there were basically no guidance from the instructors at all then they would have a critique and they would just tear you apart rip you to shreds I’m completely subjective for completely subjective reasons I sort of couldn’t couldn’t understand I didn’t really learn too much from from from that experience so I switched to Asian Studies and Lert started to learn more about Chinese art Chinese culture history it’s not knowing what I was getting into in that in that manner also because it’s not so easy so these are some of my turn the first attempt earlier timpz and i realized that it’s sort of taking my approach of that teacher Wong gon who is kind of hybridizing who sort of using Chinese techniques and Chinese materials in you know sort of pseudo Chinese way so that that’s where I started I began to realize that I really was hoping for something a little bit more authentic although I didn’t quite know what that meant and I’m telling you all this background because it’s important to see where I finally ended up that I started with somebody whose idea was to combine East and West that are very what turns out to be fairly superficial way and not really getting getting to the core of what makes Chinese art Chinese and what makes Western art Western or modern or whatever so that’s why I started then I went to Taiwan for my junior year where I studied Chinese intensively and I studied with this man and boy and Chao who’s not famous I don’t even have a good photo with a very nice man so I was there just I lived in Taiwan just for one year doing doing uh you know my junior year and they’re doing lots of Chinese language training

and also painting and he painted like this his his work is very very I’ll use the word traditional very very Orthodox he was unlike long gu and my first teacher Choi Eun cha what he really thought you had to do things the old fashioned let’s say he was old fashioned you had to do it this way landscapes had to be this this way and it was also good training but I also felt like at the end of the day he you know he wasn’t doing anything particularly creative but I I respected what he was doing in relation to the tradition when I first started studying with him he asked us to you know he would paint a tree or rock simple landscaping or ask us to copy it you know that give us homework copied the tree so as a westerner my approach was oh I did watch them see how I did a tree then I would go home and I’d print a whole bunch of different trees and I would come back the next time and he was very disappointed because that’s not what you’re supposed to do you’re supposed to copy what he did and okay so I learned that gradually and so I you know these are some of the early copies of he would he would give us the works to to copy you know he had a hold stacks of different subjects and things and and so I would dutifully copy what he had done and that was that was a very useful process and and use the you know traditional materials now just a word tradition the handing down of statements police legend customs information etc the key here is from generation to generation or number number four continuing pattern of of culture beliefs or practices so nowadays when people hear the word tradition they think it means past and in some uses it I guess that’s that’s acceptable but for me the idea of tradition is something that’s ongoing so you know tradition exists in the past and the present and it it anticipates the future so we have our religious traditions we have our family traditions you know people come come for Easter come for Christmas whatever it is and you hope that that will be handed down from generation to generation that’s sort of the whole point of it and that’s my attitude about traditional Chinese painting and it’s it’s quite extraordinary that of all the great art traditions in the world Chinese painting in a way is one of the most clear clearly unbroken tradition for at least 2,000 years and so when when I hear a lot of people when they’re talking about art Chinese art to say well it’s either traditional or it’s modern or it’s contemporary cutting you know so they think of contemporary something cutting-edge right now and traditional is something that happened before but what what happens when you’re an artist living today a contemporary artist who is embracing the traditions that you have inherited it’s it puts you in a little bit of a different position and you know is it possible to be a tradition be both a traditional artist and a contemporary artist and the answer of course is yes but it’s not easy how do we do that so as one fond who was the great professor back back east in Princeton and he was also the curator at the Metropolitan Statistical pattern seen by Chinese artists was not one of Prague in which the new replace the old it was rather an enduring effort on the part of succeeding generations of artists to gain or restore life and truth to art ancient masters were perceived in a non historical continuum in which later masters in the chiefing self-realization through inner responses to both nature and art emerge as their equals rather than as mere followers they too became become ancestors so the idea here is this idea of a non historical continuum or it say you know what a trans historical continuum where where what you as you’d learned what you try to do is you you absorb what you can of what came before and then you find your own lineage within the great tradition of Chinese art now of course Chinese painting is not one singular tradition they’re all there are all kinds of traditions of Chinese painting there’s Buddhist art there’s there’s you know folk folk traditions of painting but but the one that gets the most attention and the one that I’m most interested is

something that generally referred to and we refer to as the literati or literati tradition or winner in tradition which got its start in the late some dynasty 12th century and really reaches his peak in the dynasty 14th century so this is Professor James Cahill who some of you probably knew I know some of you knew and I was going to make a lame attempt to describe when Fong and KL as the as the equivalent of well it won’t work for this audience I was going to say Tupac and and the notorious b.i.g but anyway they’d like to argue a month you know between each other about different different paintings and about different ideas but Jim Cahill among mothers was one of the first American scholars to really grapple with the idea of this literati tradition and I said I’ve written just a couple of lines about how he explained the difference between so-called literati painting especially as it as it appears in the 13th 14th century and what came before so he’s saying the quality of of expression in the picture is principally determined by the personal qualities of the man who creates it and the circumstances under which he creates it and secondly the expressive content of a picture may be partially or wholly independent of its represent representational content in other words something more a so that the art is something closer to what we think of a self-expression but using landscape in particular as a vehicle to express one’s inner feelings rather than landscape as a picture of a scene or a realistic depiction of an actual place so he points to the 13th late 13th century into the 14th century as it’s pivotal time and one of the great artists scholar artists of that period is this man named John moon fool and this kind of painting a few if you’d know about some dynasty painting it this is quite quite a difference if you look at the one on the top it’s it’s really not clearly not photographic he this he the artist has combined two separate mountains that actually are not anywhere near each other you couldn’t actually see this vision at all because they’re separated by miles and miles but he’s reduced it to a kind of semi-abstract almost primitive is image where the trees and the rocks you know that the the idea of scale and proportion and just the overall treatment of all the of all the details are or have a kind of primitive natural quality and that’s what he was going for now this is 14th century so this is this is not because they didn’t know how to paint this was a conscious decision to be doing something beyond you know pictorial representation so that each line and it has a expressive quality in and of itself in addition to describing a particular form and the lower one you can see is very simple it’s so it’s a small hands girl but it’s it’s got almost no details but if you see it in person it just is so amazing so the painted the content of the painting the meaning of the painting is this sort of bland not none you know it doesn’t call attention to itself it’s very internalized it’s it’s a very personal approach to art and personal vision of nature and this is this is what we call the literati tradition and this was the lineage that I personally became drawn to so here’s another one of these great un dynasty paintings by one of the so called foreign masters Wang bong and you can see the detail in there right well if you look at the overall compositions clearly this is a is not again not a photo of a particular place it’s built up it’s a little you can tell that it’s a landscape there are trees these are rock forms but the rock forms are are not really based on something that is in front of him it’s it’s so it’s it’s kind of coming up with a way to use the drawing itself to reconstruct a world

where rocks and tree and waterfalls exist so then the next way the question is so each generation tries to absorb what came before in whatever way they can and and that that you know that starts by copying works from earlier painters but eventually if you’re lucky and if you have the skill and if you have the talent you try to develop your own your own take on the tradition and one of the ways that artists develop is is to do works that are in the imitation of a previous match master so the painting on the left is the 14th century you’re in dynasty painting by John Bull called King bian mountains and another great artists of the 17th century named Don Cheech Chong does his version of this same theme which is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art one of their great masterpieces and so you can see it’s not a direct copy but it’s what he’s trying to do is capture the essence of the earlier artist style and then somehow put his own imprint on it and and so this is one way that the tradition continues and this this this one Chinese word farm is means creative imitation in other words it’s not just copying a lot of people think that you know the Chinese paintings go on and on they just keep copying each other but in order for it in order for the artists to actually become an important artist you have to go beyond just copying and get to a point where you’re reinterpreting or you’re adding something to the original model and that’s called Fong and this is a concept that Cahill was very good in articulating even in English so so I was very fortunate to study with James Cahill who was one of the great art historians and one of the the real pioneers of Chinese painting studies in America and here you can see some details so it’s really clearly not a drawing of an actual place but it’s it’s capturing the essence of landscape forms and an energy Qi and and you know just the interaction of trees and rocks and it just becomes a very organic kind of an approach where the most important thing is the quality of the drawing itself the the quality of the lines and washes and the dots through Cahill I met this man named Cece Wong who some of you may have heard of also his name was actually one ji Chen but we everybody knew him as Cece Wong and he was one of the great collectors connoisseurs and artists who lived in New York so I was back I was in Berkeley studying with James Cahill and was introduced to Mr Wong and we all knew him because a lot of the works that we had studied in the books said you know collection of Cece Wong or formerly collection of Cece Wong and every that’s how we knew him mostly and even today he’s more well-known as a collector and a connoisseur than he is as a painter and I think his painting is really underrated because or I should say he’s overshadowed by the other work that he did as a collector scholar I would say dealer but he didn’t like to be called a dealer but I I think there’s nothing wrong with being a dealer so I met Cece Wong and he was offering two classes in San Francisco so I took his classes now of course if you you’ve all had art history classes and then what Cahill is very good at taking the image like I just showed you and showing details and explained in the composition and and analysing the style stylistic analysis so and so forth tying it in with the biography of the artist and and really giving us a strong background in how to look at a Chinese baby how to place it within historical context and all that and I’m very for that I studied with him for only two years got a master’s degree and then I was going to go into the ph.d program but then I met CC Wong and I thought oh this guy really knows something I took these two classes and I thought I’d go back to New York for a while and then come back and get my PhD well I never never came back but CC Wong gave a class and he also showed slides but these are the these literally were CC Wong’s likes he only showed details he never showed though the whole the whole image because what really interests him is the drawing

itself I mean he would hope sorry he would lost them he would like talk about look look how beautiful this line is look at the quality of the drawing look he didn’t even talk about the composition or the space of course he could see it but he was just more interested in in the textures and the way that the the line was was drawn and how beautiful and I lost my pointer but anyway so that that was a very different approach and as I said I ended up studying assisi Wong for like 25 years until he died never made it back to KL so the thing about CC why I mentioned when I was studying in in Taiwan with Roy Yun Chao that he would do pay he would do two simple paintings for us to copy and that’s sort of the standard way that everybody learns – and he’s painting the thing about Cece Wong is that he was a great collector and he you know most Chinese painting teachers they say well this is how you do it you paint like you know this is how I do it tree this is how I do a rock you copy it you learn my style see see won’t says no don’t learn my style don’t learn don’t copy my work learn from their old masters directly and he had works by the old masters he had paintings for the Sonja and Ming and Qing all of the big name artists and I would go to his house from warning tonight and the first thing he’d asked me is John home you know aren’t that’s my Chinese like what would you like to pay today and he you know have a stack of girls and it was like a kid in a candy shop it’s like I one day I would paint hangings girls larger pieces one day I would paint hands girls or album leaves so you know and I could pick whatever I wanted it was just extraordinary and you know he would go about his business selling his real estate and stocks and stuff and then he would come over every now and then make a few comments sometimes add a few lines so the painting on the right is a is back back to this boom teach on guy 1555 1636 it’s it’s one leaf from a remarkable album that was in CC wants a collection at the time and I got to copy the whole thing he then later sold it to the nelson-atkins gallery in Kansas City it’s one of their great treasures but I got to copy it before before it left his handsome to cop my copy on the left is a close copy so here I’m not doing I’m not doing the creative imitation the farm I’m doing an actual closed copy but I’m did it’s it was a you know straight off copy I didn’t do I just you know copied applying for line and pretty good so but through this process because I was copying don’t chew chunks works in the style of the old masters not only was i learning film G John’s brush work but I was also getting a sense of how he was interpreting what came before so I learned you know very tactile eat this idea of farm creative imitation and what it meant so here’s a couple of I’m just gonna go through a couple this this is a painting on the right is a landscape by Baba Sharon one of the famous painters you probably know him from his birds and fish and things he also late in his life he did landscape so that’s a great polished and landscape by Josh Stein and Lansky that was in the cc1 collection on the left is a cc Wang painting that in some ways relates compositionally to it and this is this is a a you know late 20th century version of Fong creative imitation that embraces the tradition fully understands it and then restates it in a new way here’s another one this is another great album leave on the right by this 17th century painter sure Tao and ACC Wang painting that is clearly inspired by this kind of painting that he owned and it’s not a direct copy he wasn’t looking at that painting when he did it he was he was just kind of remembering in his mind’s eye that the technique and the brushwork and the sensibility of the shirttail painting and reinterpreting it into his own vocabulary so now I’m just going to show you a few of my works on the left that are in some way relate to I think some early masters it doesn’t matter who but the one on the right is the 14th century painter named needs an and my interpretation is a little different I

like one of the few needs and imitations that doesn’t have the little house because I found that superfluous so this an upper upper left is a great detail of a great dynasty artists font Oni that’s in the Metropolitan Museum and a painting that I did that has something of that flavor so it doesn’t mean that even when I did this painting I was necessarily even thinking of that particular painting or that particular artist but this is the way you know you do you by copying the older masters and looking and looking and looking and learning it you it becomes part of you and then when whatever you paint it will have echoes and so it’s after the fact that I put these these pairs together this is one guarantee on the left and and here I have a closer relationship I think in terms of style because I I really like long in Chi as a painter he said another 8 year early 18th century painter the one on the right and the Princeton University Art Museum on the left is a 16th century painter named will bin so it’s not as I say it’s not a direct one-to-one correlation but but I mean we you know you have copies like that as well but what we’re really trying to do is absorb the met the models and kind of get the essence of it and restate it in in your own way and whether that consciously contemporary or not is really not that important because as a contemporary person no matter what you do it’s going to be contemporary it just depends how the audience receives it whether they think it’s just traditional or whether they understand what’s new about I mean being contemporary is I think you could also say you’re just trying to find your own personal interpretation within this long tradition and they’re not just run by a couple of works now none of these are based on anything in particular so it’s it’s it’s like an amalgam of looking at hundreds and hundreds of Chinese paintings and copying lots of them and coming up with things that resonate with past traditions now 2008 or actually 2010 to 2011 there was an exhibition the music Museum of Fine Arts in Boston called fresh ink and I was invited as one of 10 artists to participate in this show and I was the only American born artist that was invited and the idea was that we would take we would find a painting or an artwork then the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and do a new take on on that work and they assumed that we would all pick some Song Dynasty painting and then do it do a riff under said but artists being artists we all had different ideas now I picked Jackson Pollock not because I’m a great fan of Jackson Pollock because I’d looked through and saw that the MFA only has to Jackson Pollock paintings one is an early vertical work and the other one is this horizontal piece which as soon as I saw it reminded me of the hand scrub so I thought that this was it would be a good piece for me to choose to have a dialogue with and I thought it was valid since I’m an American that I had the right to choose an American artist and turned it into you know and and and relate to it in a different way now one thing I didn’t want to do was do a an inky dripping I wanted it to be an actual Chinese painting that somehow had a similar kind of energy and and I thought about Jackson Pollock you know he worked well in the studio with what the canvas on the on the the ground and you know what do we think of in this splashing but he didn’t really splash he really controlled the the paint that he was putting on so it became online and so he wasn’t doing this he was he was really drawing in the air and using gravity to create these lines and then he used paint that that was opaque and and and you know one layer over the other now what we do we also work flat on the table which I’m going to show you but the paper is different the materials are different of absorbed so even though we have layers and layers blend together but you know there’s a certain similarity of the idea of of working on a flat surface so when we had this show in Boston which was great they allowed us to show the Pollock flat which ordinarily they don’t do and you can walk around oops I turned it off oh okay so I also did this sort of preliminary you could call a sketch or drawing and

what this is you see two images there but it’s actually the same image turned upside down so I was playing with this idea that Pollock when he’s actually working on these things he may not know what the ultimate orientation of how it’s going to be hung on the wall it’s going to be because he’s walking around and so I tried to do a painting that would work either way up or down and you know I think it’s pretty successful but on the other hand I didn’t want to just show this because it’s it seemed a little gimmicky and people would say oh you did that that’s that’s all there was to it it’s just so you can turn the drone that’s cool but but I wanted something beyond that so I actually I actually used this as a kind of preliminary drawing but it did give me some ideas so I started doing works that are much more like that where you cannot where there isn’t a clear-cut orientation you can here’s two works from 2011 you can turn them on the side and they work equally well and they feel different so that was that was one one way that for me to expand on the tradition without compromising my basic integrity of the tradition if you want to call them abstract that’s fine but you can also see that there are kind of landscape elements in them so if you want to call it a Chinese landscape I think you’re justified I could I could describe these paintings in the same way that I describe a 17th century painting by Tom Cheetham in terms of lot of energy in terms of brushwork in terms of light dark dry wet in terms of ambiguous spatial quality and all these things it still applies if you want to just call it an abstract painting that’s fine with me too but those that’s the way in which this is a more contemporary interpretation of traditional standard traditional principles as well as traditional techniques now the one on the right is a painting that I did and then the one on the left is an aerial photograph and unfortunately I got it offline and I didn’t I don’t know who actually did it but again I’m not copying that but I’m certainly influenced by the fact that we now have aerial photography we have Google Earth we have all of these things that the ancient masters could not have had although they had the idea they understood that mountain ranges are connected so but they couldn’t actually get high enough to see how they’re connected but they intuited that we can actually see it so yeah I think a lot of my more recent work is again you can call it abstract some of it has more specific references to trees or whatever but you know when you look at aerial photographs or sort satellite images you can’t really tell which way is up because there isn’t really an up or down and you and when you look at the mountaintops or the valleys you can’t really tell which is taller and which is shorter so it’s it’s another you know it’s another point of view but you can still use the paintings the same techniques to express these qualities of nature and just to show you a few more I’ve been you know moving in the direction of color and maybe somewhat more abstract but so I don’t have like you know houses and little figures and with the staff and all that because I think what happens there is that you’re you’re you’re defining the time and place and are we the meant to look at that as a you know an 18th century figure or shall we draw a guy in a in a you know with Nikes and a you know running soon that makes it a contemporary I think let’s forget about all that let’s just look at the nature and and go for something that’s hopefully more timeless in terms of its beauty I’m working now on a big painting that I’ve been working on for literally four years that doesn’t mean I work on it every day but but I’ve I’ve worked on it and put it away and brought it out again this this is about 2 feet by 18 feet or somewhere with that and I’m bound and determined to finish this soon these are some details so again you know they sort of look like trees they sort of look like water they sort of look like rocks I don’t know but it’s Chinese ink painting now I just want to stop here and mention uh I don’t know and most of you probably some of you know who this is Michael journey these two works are in the in the

collection of the Portland Art Museum and by the way I love these two and specifically and his whole thing of course is is he has a great interest in Chinese ink painting and he takes photographs that that share that aesthetic now some of you may know that he and I have been doing collaborations since 2009 where he prints the his image on a sheet of shred paper and then I paint around it this one is actually a pair it’s called perspectives where he’s printed his photo in a triangular form and then I painted around it now you might not notice at first but this this is like exactly the same image turned upside down so you you know I the reason I did this was you know just because I thought it was would be fun to see Michael’s reaction cuz he didn’t expect me to turn it upside down but what what happens is you get a completely different kind of view even though the real the triangular part is actually a real image of nature and here’s a more recent pair Perry where this is one of the first times that he’s actually taken a color image and in the first one I painted around the color imaged just with ink and then the second one I’ve also used color so this this is also the same same image ones printed slightly smaller and so we’ve been playing with this kind of idea and I just wanted to show that you know there there are way I I have not wanted to do anything gimmicky I haven’t wanted to do something contemporary for the sake of being contemporary but this is these are these are ways that that I feel like I am being true to the basic tenets of the of the tradition as I understand it or following the lineages that I think are valid and yet coming up with something that is new I was meant to talk about some other artists and because the you know I was going to mention there others who are doing different things but because the time is limited I would have had to you know be very selective and that wouldn’t be fair so I thought I’d talk about one artist me but mention to you that I don’t know if any of you are going to San Francisco for Asia week they are Asian week next I guess it’s next week from the third to whatever they’re there is a show that includes a lot of contemporary ink painters at the gallery near the airport called nan hai if anybody’s interested and I urge you all to pay attention to that gallery and if you’re in the area go have a look at the show so now we’re going to switch to the GoPro amazing now I don’t know how much how much time to have huh I’m sorry do you think I should take questions first that’s what I was afraid of I can actually do both alright so you know this is this is a hard thing to do but I’m gonna try this is cool so here I by the way if you have time after have a look I brought two hanging Scrolls that are complete and mounted and of course in the museum that’s how you see them you know hanging but I wanted to point out that that you know they’re actually done on paper or silk I use you know I don’t really paint on silk but I brought if anybody interested later you know different kinds of paper that you can touch so they you know they have different absorbency different thickness oh this type of paper usually you know people say it’s rice paper which is a misnomer because has nothing to do with rice but handmade papers from made from bamboo fibers or mulberry fibers different different kinds of baby these these are very thick I tend to like paper that has more tooth and is less absorbent a lot of artists Chinese painters working today he was a very smooth absorbent paper and that has to do with the style that they they like which often is a you know washi er kind of like you know I don’t like cheap I

sure with with broad brushstrokes and very lots of pink eye as you probably tell from what I showed I like to go for that dry brush approach and so I just brought for you just to look real quickly this is cool you can do that a bit let’s not do it this way these are unfinished things and also just art historians like to talk about an artist style evolving in a certain direction but I just want to show that that you know these two paintings are you know done on the same day and it’s it’s it’s not a problem to sort of go back and forth from one mode to the other I mean clearly this one is less let’s say traditional which is that dangerous word but it’s certainly not a conventional kind of landscape but I think the point that I’m trying to make is that for me they’re not really that different because what I’m most concerned about is is the line quality the the the variety of line the texture of the line the flavor of the line is more important than what I’m actually drawing so whether I’m doing this one which which looks like you know it’s just random lines or the other one which is more clearly a landscape structure to me it doesn’t make all that much difference so now what I’m going to do is just talk real fast about the materials just a little bit and then I’ll try to try my hand at scribbling something I’ve already cut some sheets of paper so I used very traditional techniques and very traditional materials and without getting into the specifics of it these are more or less the same kind of materials that have been used in China for literally a couple of thousand years you can find brushes and ink stones and ink sticks that they way back to the Tang Dynasty you know ace in any centric tombs or whatever and the structure of the brushes and everything else is pretty much what we use today and that’s one of the things frankly that I find appealing is that we we are using the same materials in the same surface more or less paper or silk and trying to grapple with some of the same technical issues that artists from all times have grappled with now very simply these these are my travel versions of an inks ink stone this is a round one with the cover it’s not a good one it’s just it’s convenient and an ink stick so this is a block of ink that’s made from basically burnt it’s essentially charcoal that’s that’s put into a mold and you make the ink by adding water and grinding it and this is the way it’s always been done forever the brushes are they are the key now I’m not going to get into the details people are really into the the tools and you know there are people who collect the brushes and then make a big deal about basically there are white ones and there are brown ones the white ones are softer and the brown ones are stiffer but the real key to the Chinese brush got this light is hot anyway sorry the real key that the Chinese brush is that they’re that whether it’s the white one or the brown one there are there’s the kind of an inner core that is the hairs are shorter and stiffer on the inside and then outside there are longer softer hairs so what happens is you get some bounce in in the in the brush and it also serves as kind of a reservoir so the ink will it will hold your ink in in the inner part and also allow you to to get some like I would say bounce on it so it it can you know react in a very sensitive manner so uh Western watercolor brushes sable brushes costs an arm and a leg but these these brushes are you know a few a few bucks and they do really great things all right so now the real key what I would like to say after having done done this kind of

painting for you know 50 years or something the technical side of it is relatively easy there isn’t that much to the technique of holding the brush and doing landscape paintings what’s really hard is the perception side of judging what’s good and what’s not good and you know being able to to control not so much your hand but continue use your eyes to see what what is a good line and what’s not a good line now I should say that this is my interpretation has passed down to me in my lineage so there’s lots of other artists who have a different interpretation of what good brushwork guess but I can only speak for myself let’s the other reason I didn’t want to mention any other artists because they may have other ideas but I found that the simplest way to explain what I’m talking about the difference between the good line and a bad line okay this is twine and it’s more or less rounded so but it’s string or twine that’s more or less rounded no matter how you roll you know make it into a shape like this if you’re describing the outside of it right you can you you know or even if you look at the shadow it creates a certain shape but the line itself if you imagine this as your brush line the line itself is round so no matter how you twist and turn it and create whatever shape you create the line itself is round as opposed to a ribbon which is flat by nature so you can do the same thing and you twist and turn it and you can create the same kind of a shape but the ribbon itself is flat so for whatever reason and there are kind of philosophical reasons whatever reason the Chinese literati artist decided that the round line is what you’re going for and you’re trying to avoid the ribbon line because that’s flat so the difference between round and flat and you know so that that’s really the the most important thing that I learned from Cece Wong it took me you know many years to even understand what the heck he was talking about so you have the advantage that I can sort of explain it so also you’ll you’ll read probably if you if people mute if you read about how paintings how you’re supposed to hold the brush they OS read that you’re supposed to hold it straight up and work like this and move your wrist well we don’t do that at all the way that we hope that I was taught to hold the brush and this is really the secret is like this I have an angle and the wrist doesn’t move the fingers don’t move although the movement comes from the shoulder and the energy comes from inside sorry and so this is very this is very odd because because you probably you know my problem is I draw a varied light so you may not see anything at all and also what happens is you you start by with with light ink and you you you know because you can’t go once you put dark ink down you can’t go over it so the idea generally speaking you start with light ink and then work work in layers from light to dark also it makes sense because as you’re grinding league as the as the water evaporates the ink becomes darker anyway so I’ll stop talking for a little bit and just start scribbling so this is you know this this is the beginning maybe of a tree but the same same kind of line the same same kind of technique you can turn into a rock or anything else or just make random patterns so for the most part you know there’s the default let’s put it this way the

default position is to hold the brush at an angle and just use the very tip of the brush and so no matter whether I’m going this way or this way or up or down really the angle that the brush doesn’t change much so this is nothing at the moment so I think if anybody wants to ask questions I can multitask but somebody has to feel the questions while I just put my my hands on autopilot yeah so how do I come up with the compositions and I think yeah that’s a good question that’s part of the the problem with learning this traditional technique is really they’re really the only hood a hard and fast rule way of learning that tried-and-true method is to learn by copying and this relates to Chinese calligraphy as well if you think about it there’s only one way you can learn calligraphy that’s by copying somebody else’s calligraphy and then you either do it through a reproduction or by you know an original and and because these so called Chinese literati painting uses calligraphy in a way as a model that’s how they learned how how to paint as well so the same idea and in calligraphy you you learn a particular style a particular script form and then you know you learn different over time you learn different forms and different styles and then if you have the talent you eventually merge it into your own personal style and that’s that’s the attitude that one uses for landscape painting as well now the problem with landscape painting is if you if you learn by copying you may you may sort of get a sense of the of the brushwork and so forth but there’s a danger of sort of it’s difficult to break out of the compositional mode because we pretty much and I should I should say it’s a that’s a start I’ll start over because of the nature of the materials you can’t really erase like like charcoal or pencil even though I liked that charcoal D quality you can’t can’t erase it and unlike oil painting you can’t just so over it or paint over it so so because the the paper so absorbent whatever mark you make will be evident even after you know you finish so so you can go some to some extent you can go dark over light but what that means is as you’re planning the composition it means whatever is going to be seen as in front of something else you have to paint first or you have to leave space for it so for example now I’m I’m I’m painting a tree because I have to paint the tree or at least block it out so and then I can I can paint the rock under it and then you can you can paint behind it if you see what I’m saying so in other words if I’d painted the rock first the that there would be a line through the tree and sometimes that happens which is also acceptable but so that’s just something to keep in mind so if you see a waterfall for example and one of these paintings you have to leave that white space blank so you paint around the waterfall if you see the the mists and the clouds you have to paint you’re not actually painting the white because you’re not using white pigment are actually painting around what will will be seen as the white clouds so that’s

something to keep in mind so what in answer to your question in terms of composition that’s that’s one of the biggest obstacles or one of the biggest developments is the difference between somebody who can copy well and somebody who can create their own compositions so you know it’s I guess in music not everybody’s a composer so even if you you you you know you can play the classical compositions doesn’t mean you can write your own so we try to do a little of each so a lot of all these so-called innovations so what John got him with the splashing of color my teacher ceci Wong someone I didn’t explain this to you but he sometimes would take a piece of paper and roll it up crunch it up and dip it in ink and stamp onto a blank sheet of paper and use that as a basis of the composition even my working in conjunction with the collaborations with Michael journey part of the reason for that is that you’re you’re forcing yourself to develop new compositional possibilities in other words if he starts me with a photograph in a way that’s the that’s easier part of one of the hardest things is to actually start a painting because you have to have some kind of calm in mind so it works in a mutual way so f after you after cc Wang has done nice and created sort of new modes of composition then he can take that back into his head and then then when he does just freeform paintings he’s already influenced by things he’s learned so when I when I work with Michael journey and Mork from the photographs I get something out of that that then can appear in my own compositions if you know what I’m saying and it doesn’t have to be conscious in fact it’s better if it’s not that’s that’s a really really good question the question if you couldn’t hear it is if when I’m doing my own composition so I visualize the IMP you know the image and then and then or do it do I just improvise and see wordless well clearly that’s what I’m doing now and that’s that’s basically how I work I and that’s another difference of this kind of painting I think is that I think even a lot of contemporary painters that I that I’ve met they they have in their mind a kind of image that they want to put on paper so there their goal is to figure out a way to get what’s in their head onto the paper and I don’t do that at all I just let the brush tell me where it wants to go and I try to follow along and that’s a little bit more I think like the particular masters that I emulate of the 14th century where where there’s there’s much more of a equality of improvisation and sometimes they go wrong do so that’s all right start over any others I said I get oh okay it’s actually it’s hard to do because you have to wait till it dries but for example yeah let’s see she was interested in seeing how how you get this layered effect what and it was hoping I could do like one detail area and and and sort of demonstrate how you build it up and layer so so uh can you even see that does that show up at all so that’s you know you sort of have this if anybody has any questions I can run this microphone to them you just raise your hand and I can run a microphone to you if you have a question so a lot of things could happen like if you if you wet the paper first and then

you you you know you can do this kind of stuff what sort of wet and wet these can be trees or whatever and you can let it dry and go back in later and so it’s here’s some very light lines but did you ever have science of civilization or man in your paintings and stopped doing them or did you just always never do them you said you don’t put sort of people note here you said you don’t paint people or signs of civilization or houses did you ever do that or did you never do yeah I kind of decided that I don’t paint people because I don’t particularly like people and I think the landscape would be a lot better off if it weren’t for the damn people so that’s my contribution to to the war and climate change I noticed when you picked up the pieces of paper and carried him over to the table that they had a little bit of a rumpled quality and I’m wondering if you can talk about the process of what happens with the piece of paper it doesn’t get ironed or how does it get smoothed out when it goes onto the squirrels it looks like in the process of working it’s okay if the piece of paper gets a little wrinkled or crumpled yeah could you talk about the processes so what happens is yeah we so naturally it’s going to get crinkled or wrinkled and so this this is the first phase and of course most of us aren’t used to seeing paintings in in museums and in cases either framed or hanging Scrolls or whatever so that’s why I brought a couple of my mounted work this is kind of nice good good suggestion to do that whoever said sorry so what what happens next is that you end up mounting this using a wet mount technique where you lay it face down and with the light rice paste flattened it out wet and then put a backing sheet on it and so all the wrinkles disappear some artists like to mount it first but I don’t I don’t mind at all having the the accidental effects that that creases or or fibers in the paper create I actually like that but yeah so in the end when it’s mounted into scroll form so you see on these Scrolls the borders are actually separately mounted the silk is actually separately backed and then it’s all pieced together and backed again so the the if you look at it carefully the painting itself is not touching the silk there’s a it’s like a matte and they’re backed by a common sheet of paper it’s a very good system you can roll it up and it doesn’t get exposed to light and you can carry a bunch of them from New Jersey in one two can you show me how to hold your brush when you do calligraphy oh you you hope well you know I’m not very good at calligraphy so I mean that’s my the problem is because I didn’t learn Chinese till much later I started by writing calligraphy but I I don’t I don’t think you want to know how I know my limitations and I can write a little but if you want to learn calligraphy there are a lot better people but yeah same samway same way okay okay thank you

yeah so but so for painting though see that that’s also another I would say I don’t know if it’s a misconception or we just have a different approach a lot of people talk about you know because calligraphy and painting and I talked about this too in terms of philosophy in terms of aesthetics they have a common root and common materials but it was actually kind of mine mind-blowing when I when I met ceci Wong and he taught me how he uses the brush and he also does calligraphy but to realize that that the technical aspect of painting landscapes and doing calligraphy it’s not the same so you know that’s interesting and I will say that that what I’ve talked about about the round brush even right round brush as opposed to flat brush does hold up if you look go back and you look at the great masters of the past they you’ll see once you can see this you’ll realize that in fact that’s one of the criteria that separates the great ones from the not-so-great ones in in the in our particular way of looking which which which was the the main orthodoxy from at least the 14th to the 19th century so we should wrap it up even more quick well I have I have one little question on the calligraphy compared to the painting in calligraphy or sort of used to seeing the brush press down and then up and it’s a wider and narrower and so on but it looks like when you’re right when you’re painting it’s all like seal script you know it’s all wire and you know flap I think that that’s true and again this isn’t the only style or the only way of doing it but it explains it explains the orthodoxy that explains the way that the the scholar painters have always talked about who was the best and who wasn’t doesn’t mean other things aren’t as good of course of course I can make lines that are modulated and a lot of people think that’s good from our snobbish elitist point of view that’s exactly what you don’t want to do calligraphy not really not really it has to be centered so anything that’s overly expressive which you know modern people tend to like there’s there there are other qualities that are more important like like holding you have to hold back you don’t want to expose it so it’s like you know tight Tai Chi trend Tai Chi it’s like all soft and internalized as opposed to karate which the force goes out so what we’re doing here this in fact that’s more of the philosophical reason about this this rounded brush technique is that it keeps the energy within the stroke we’ve already hit 320 and that’s all I know so I’m Jan so what I would like to do first I’d like to thank Arnold for coming today and as I think that you saw in the sides of his work and that you’ll see in the two finished paintings one of the things that I have observed about his style even though he says that he does you know different things in the same day it seems to me that he’s getting ever more ethereal and magical as time goes by and part of that is his ability to manipulate this very fine faint line and when we were looking at it from here I think it might have been hard to see because it’s so faint but but you can see in the finished paintings what happens with the multiple layers so I’d like to invite you to come up but be very careful do not lean over the paintings if you’re wearing a long scarf or a necklace don’t do that either because we don’t want something landing on the paintings but they will be a good example of you’re seeing technique turn the lights brighter on the paintings he asks and then you can also see I think the samples that he has on their desk I think that would be fun to see so I invite you to come up and take a look thank you for being here