The Lingnan School

Fig. 6. Handscroll continued from page 10. in our modern Western revolution, was a process, not a product. Its end product was not the physical work of art but the expansion of conscious– ness or, ultimately, enlightenment. The journey through the hand– scroll is first a journey into the land– scape; then through the basic pictorial languages of form, line, color, and texture into the more eso– teric languages of subtlety, confi– dence, commitment, and eventually sagacity. To delve into sagacity, the work of art becomes a journey into the mind of the artist and, via that, into the undiscovered self, the focus of all high art in China.' ·1 have dealt with these languages and audience techniques in revealing their profundity in Ho Huai-shuos Four Sea– sons Handscroll. The Experience ofAri' Twentieth Century Chinese Paintings from the Shuisongshi Shanfang Collec– tion, \VI. lIJ. November 1990. An essay therein, entitled 'A Unified Theory of Art,' explains for the beginner the nature of art. By aiming at the highest levels of creative perception and expreSSion and relating it to its primary role in the evo~ lution of consciousness, the anomalies of art are explained. Noisy sculpture and si– lent music and other modern Western forms of expression are brought into a Single framework of understanding with traditional arts, a framework which ex– tends to incorporate the apparent para– dox of modern Chinese paintings which appear little changed since the four ~ teenth century. It is available from Han The handscroll is a highly efficient format in this subtle dance of picto– rial art, and the viewer, revealing different segments of the overall painting at his or her own discre– tion, changing the compOSition and tempo, pausing to rellect and then moving on, reaches most effectively into the creative aspects of audience participation in pictorial art. In Gan\; delightful journey we see, on a grand scale, elements of the land– scapes he painted inside snuff bottles, and we see his mature , brushwork uninhibited by the constrictions of the snuff bottle medium. Handscrolls present formidable compositional problems to the artist, specially when they are as long as this one, and challenge both com– mitment and confidence in the dance of the brush, form, inktones and colors, and texture. Gan is in complete control throughout this work. He has created a masterpiece worthy of the comment made by his contemporary in the colophon men– tioned earlier In Chinese literati painting, which represents the height of maturity in the Chinese pictorial tradition, the language of representational subject matter acts as a welcoming introduc– tion to the basic languages of form, Shan Tang, 717 Fulham Road, London SW6 SUi, England. 9 line, color, and texture. Whether as artist or audience, one first learns to see the painting as representing a picture of landscape, then to read it as a journey through the landscape. By projecting oneself into the paint– ing at various points and enjoying endless different journeys unin– hibited by the physical limitations of the body, the distinction between the visual and actual experience of the landscape evaporates. Then with landscape set on the backburner of perceptiOn, the landscape is trans– formed into a far more subtle world of abstraction and expreSSion. This is the world of form, line, color, and texture, and artist and audience alike learn to dance with each of the languages. Dancing with form begins a pro– cess not unlike that epitomized for our Western analyrical minds by Mondrian. Landscape shapes are re– arranged from the imagination to proVide perfect formal harmony. Harmony is what Iiterati painting is all about: at the highest level it aims at harmonizing landscape elements with pure abstraction, the dance of the brush with its physical markings, and the self with the universe. With the language of line, the brush moves in a delightful and profound dance of the spirit, using color and texture in a very modern Western sense to explore and express the in– ner self, for artist and audience alike.