Wind Entering Pine
Ink and Brush Painting © Che Qianzi
Che Qianzi (Gu Pan), was born in Suzhou, China in 1963. Poet, essayist, and ink artist, he has published six books of poetry and fifteen essay collections, and held nine solo painting exhibitions. He declares “the ego a poet shows in his or her work is a component of the art, simple as that.” Che Qianzi lives in Beijing.
excerpted from “Water and Ink”
In traditional Chinese ink painting, there are “five shades of ink”, meaning five strengths of water dilution. Like the movement of air through sparse or dense vines, dilution of the solid ink cake on the inkstone yields a drier or wetter, thicker or thinner mix. It’s been said “A horse may pass through thin ink, but thick can block the wind.” Even the densest, driest ink, however, carries some water within. As we say, “the parched tree revives in spring.”
Between heaven and earth, and brush, paper, and water, a mysterious conversation may ensue, with ink recording the exchange. All this, plus the inkstone, form China’s ancient and perhaps most creative art. In a skiff, one may glide back to the beginning of the universe and hang a fishline over the side, probing for the scales that swim, the feathers that soar. Brush and paper are the skiff, ink and water the fishline. But who’s in the skiff? Seeking sages’ wisdom in a Tang dynasty crisis, the poet Chen Zi’ang said “See no one in the past; no one in the future.”
Water flows alone from high ground; ink traces its dreamlike course.
…The relation between water and ink is curious. Water arrives from hidden places. In poetry, ink forms the words, reflecting everywhere the art’s watery ripplings. Sometimes I think brush, paper, water, and ink are more like spirits than materials. When unified and harmonious, they convey one sense or spirit of the East, a land of ink and water, and its imagining through paper and brush.
Beside the Grand Canal, I gauge with one hand a certain height, as if writing in air.