因此,我认为今天的全球文化应该是均衡的发展,而不是以西方艺术为中心的后殖民主义的文化特权优先。爱因斯坦最喜欢的一本中国的书《易经》(Book of Changes),书中的八卦图(Eight diagrams/Bagua)意指宇宙平衡(Balance of the universe)的阴阳学说,其学说使全人类受益。书中融合了东西方的科学思想,理解一种和谐,我们这本书通过中国书法与简约主义思想的结合其实传递的就是一种东西方的和谐,八卦图就是和谐的象征,在西方家喻户晓,他们理解这个icon就更加容易了解中国汉字书法和文化的哲学含义了。我们之所以以八卦图为例子,是想通过一个西方人熟知的icon来解释一种和我们的书有关的粗创作思想。看看您熟悉的德国大使西蓓丽 · 舒尔茨女士创作的汉字超现实主义的抽象作品,完全是东西方艺术哲学的融合,这种合作就是一种和谐和融合,这些前所未有的艺术品是多么精彩啊!

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:的确,我对您的看法十分认同。现在西方艺术发展遇到了瓶颈,中国书法中的中国哲学的确是欧洲艺术家值得学习的源泉,中国因为书法有着几千年的历史,  非常深厚的文化。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:是的,我对这本书的价值及其将要发挥的作用满怀信心。

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:孔子学院犹如我们的德国歌德学院,要感谢他们提供了不起的工作平台。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:说到西蓓莉女士,您怎么看待我设计和指导的 “中西合璧” 的跨学科(interdisciplinary)学术研究项目呢?我与西蓓莉女士和赵宏先生自2013年初开始运作这个项目。这个项目的基本方法是我通过与西蓓丽 · 舒尔茨教授合作,向她详细讲解汉字书法等文化,使用赵宏博士的书法作品,创作诠释具有中国汉字元素的新的抽象艺术作品,我们做了很多作品,非常漂亮,也很震撼。您也看到不少这些作品了,您认为中国书法会给西方艺术世界带来什么? 想听听您的见解,谢谢!

Dialogue on Chinese Calligraphy with a Famous German Journalist

--- Professor Weihong Yan and Mr. Wolf Rosenthal talked about Professor Yan’s new book entitled 

The Brush Speaks the Civilization: the Art of Six Scripts of Chinese Calligraphy.”

(January 12, 2012, on the Internet)

Yan Weihong: Mr. Wolf Rosenthal, have you ever learned about Chinese calligraphy or characters? Do you go by Wolf, or Rosenthal, sir? 

Wolf Rosenthal: Call me Wolf, Weihong, we are old friends. In answer to your question, no, I have not studied Chinese calligraphy yet. It has fascinated me for many years and it’s likely that I will start learning Chinese calligraphy soon. Your new book would be an excellent model and motivation for my first step to kick off my practice…like a pupil at elementary school.

 

Yan Weihong: That sounds great, Wolf... Thank you for your enthusiasm. It’s not a bad idea to have childlike innocence! As a Westerner, what is your personal perspective regarding Chinese calligraphy as an artistic language? And as a visual art form, how would you compare Chinese calligraphy with Western art?

 

Wolf Rosenthal: For me, I think Chinese calligraphy is a really cool art, and it visually pleases both my soul and my person. Because I do not speak the language, it wakens my curiosity. These past years I have found my interest in Chinese culture growing quite a bit.  I am happy with such feelings.  Professor Yan, seeing your artworks of calligraphy online, and especially with your wonderful descriptions and explanations, allows me to have a better understanding of it. Arts do fascinate me. In modern times, there are so many styles worldwide, of which many are confusing and hard to understand. I find Chinese calligraphy to be unique among them, and see it as an art form that is exceptional and stunning in its beauty and simplicity. It gives me comfort, quietness and peacefulness. In contrast, western art is often explicit, and artist-ego and market centered. Traditional calligraphy is subtle, quiet, and about having longevity according to Chinese philosophy.

 

Yan Weihong: Yes, it is a meditative and healing art, please go ahead.

Wolf Rosenthal: Yes, Chinese calligraphy is like fairy tales; with all its mysteries and secrets, of which I harbor a curiosity that has stalked me to this day. It is a unique culture that I wanted to learn about, but never really knew where or how to begin.  Maybe this was just an excuse, but I was also worried about not having the time I thought it would take to learn and understand. Your book has now opened the door for me to take the first step, as it reveals the secrets of Chinese calligraphy in a way that I can understand. I truly appreciate the attractiveness of this beautiful book!

 

Yan Weihong: Wolf, do you have the four treasures in your study room? If not, I would like to mail some of them to you.

 

Wolf Rosenthal: I know of these four treasures, and thank you so much. Once I receive them, I am going to put them in my bank security box, so that maybe one day I will auction them off and make a fortune….how about that Professor Yan? What I want to say is that the allure of Chinese culture, and your creative idea of making 5,000 years of Chinese history as simple as possible, in a book that allows readers to easily understand the beauty of the characters, is really a shortcut to solve the mysteries and learn the culture...just amazing…..!

 

Yan Weihong: Very nice; making some bucks with the cultural four treasures is a great idea for creating wealth. The four treasures are paper, ink, brush and the ink stone that calligraphers use. Speaking of simplicity of calligraphy, I would like you to talk about Chinese calligraphy with its minimalist philosophy that has existed for three thousand years. The colors are simple, just black and white: Black from the ink and the white xuan paper (rice paper). Visually the contrast is clean and simple which has a major impact. This makes me think of one of the Western art lines, like minimalism of which the philosophy is “less is more.” This goes against the movement of American abstract expressionism, as evidenced by the works of Jackson Pollack, whose canvasses are anything but simple minimalism. Whereas Chinese calligraphy is very close to the “less is more” philosophy, as its simplicity expresses profound meaning.

 

Wolf Rosenthal: I agree to your point. In Germany, minimalism is very popular, as seen in the derived technical designs of Dieter Rams. Looking back 3,000 years, the Chinese developed the minimalist doctrine of the visual arts that are seen today. This could be a really interesting point you mentioned, Professor Yan. In this case, the traditional calligraphy is such a valuable art form, and an area that one should research. Finding the right way to introduce this to the world seems very important, so your book is really a revolutionary innovative way to present it to westerners in the correct way! I like that, and I can see these days that your book has been receiving a lot of attention on the Internet.

 

Yan Weihong: I have found that art, like music, unites the people of the earth.  This is also true with art or philosophy, found in the Eastern or Western world, and that wisdom…. of whatever nature or degree… is something we all have in common. The methodology of creating art differs in ideas and aesthetics between the East and the West, but the goals are the same.  This is evidenced in the book as calligraphy is combined with minimalism and offers a significant overview of the century. My thoughts to embrace the “less is more” philosophy, purposefully targets the American audience: And as one of the authors, it is important to have that special connection. It really is an amazing book! The brilliant combination of both Eastern and Western philosophies portrayed in this book, are perfect examples of harmony as in the yin and yang, and post colonialism. An example is that the binary system is the yin and yang; and post colonialism emphasizes Eastern world culture that is centered. The yin and yang is a Taoism philosophy that expresses the cultural importance of both the East and West. This combination realized in my book reflects the yin and yang thought.

 

The same is true of Albert Einstein when he applied his theory to the universe as a whole. On the other hand, the philosophy of Cosmology of Buddhism and Albert Einstein share a commonality in that art belongs to both humans and our universe, and should be a balance, instead of just western-centered Chinese writing associated with heaven and the universe 5,000 years ago. You see, it seems we are all connected:  China’s Book of Changes, one of Einstein’s favorite books, has 8 diagrams meaning balance of universe, yin and yang of balance of both the east and west that could benefit all humans. This is why I also designed the "East Meets West” project, to link them to explore the value of art for both sides. As Picasso said, “I seek, I find.” We found a great way to mix eastern and western philosophy that allows western viewers to easily learn about the calligraphy and culture. Think of the artworks that German artist Professor Sibylle Schwarz does, and how wonderful they are.

Wolf Rosenthal: Yes indeed, I agree with your opinions. There is a bottle-neck of Western art in current times, and oriental calligraphy is really a wonderful source for European artists to learn from; it provides an endless usage of thousands of years of culture… so rich!

 

Yan Weihong: Yes, this book has great potential...I am confident. 

 

Wolf Rosenthal: Thanks to the contributions of German Goethe Institute and Confucius Institute! Great job!

 

Yan Weihong: How do you see our "EAST MEETS WEST" project that I designed? Mrs. Schwarz, Dr. Zhao and I have been presenting this program since the beginning of 2013. From the beginning I have presided over the planning of this interdisciplinary academic program. You have also seen a lot of the drawings with the basic approach of Professor Schwarz creating new artworks, based on Dr. Zhao’s traditional calligraphy with the elements of Chinese characters in each piece. These are exceptionally beautiful in her new approach. How do you think Chinese calligraphy can benefit, or bring anything new to the western world? Thank you.

 

Wolf Rosenthal: Professor Yan, you and Dr. Hong Zhao conceived and introduced these brand new concepts to the art world in your book; and the book describes the different periods of history regarding the aesthetics of calligraphy. It offers the best blueprint of Eastern and Western aesthetics and blends them so well. For example, in 2013, Sibylle Schwarz and you worked together for an “East Meets West" academic program. I feel certain this project will not only benefit American readers, but also European ones. The clear and concise layout of your book will serve as a catalyst to spark new interest in this integration of calligraphy and line drawing.  This new art form will definitely find its way into the hearts, minds, and homes of the buyers. I have no doubt that there are exceptional plans for this program, and that your book will be of great support for the Western readers who seek to understand China’s past and today’s culture. And as mentioned earlier, these ideas of combining calligraphy and modern art will be a revolutionary movement.

 

Yan Weihong: I agree, and feel deeply the value of this contribution to the world of calligraphy.

Wolf Rosenthal: I live in Frankfurt, Germany, which is home to the world's largest book fair, the "Olympic Book Fair,” which I have visited for 35 years; I go there most every year. The Frankfurt Book Fair is the finest place that your book could be exhibited in 2014. I would like to take you and find the publisher's agents, and sell them the rights to have it translated into German. The German, Austrian and Swiss markets are some of the largest for readers and artists, so a German publication makes a lot of sense.

Yan Weihong: The book will be translated into English and Spanish, and it would be wonderful to have translated for the German market as well. I remember that you said you worked in the Goethe Institute, is that right?

Wolf Rosenthal: During the years of my position as head of Foreign Exhibitions Department of the Frankfurt Olympic Book Fair, we often cooperated with Goethe Institute, which makes great contributions to the world, as does Confucius Institute.

Yan Weihong: Thank you very much; your suggestions and comments are very valuable. Because you love Chinese culture and art, you are qualified to talk about calligraphy and my book. And like me, you are also a connoisseur of western art.

Wolf Rosenthal: My daily browsing consists of viewing 50 or more pieces of art. I know you as being very knowledgeable about of all types of art.  This practice of seeing paintings has the ability to cultivate “crystal eyes” to distinguish between various types of art styles.

 

Yan Weihong: Before the end of the conversation, I want to ask you a question. I apologize for taking so much of your time. You have visited the Frankfurt Book Fair for 35 years; you have seen countless excellent books and their designs. As such, how do you see the design of my book?

 

Wolf Rosenthal: An utterly well-designed book.  The layout of the book is up to date, very well structured for easy learning, of wonderful hepatics, which, as you know are the most important parts in book design overall. The design of the book is very unique. I think it’s a great idea to have it printed on xuan paper, I like that. Philosophically, who conceptualized the idea of the book design? I will wait for you to attend the 2014 Book Fair here in my town, and I look forward to that. I know we are coming to the end of our conversation, but before we finish, let me ask you a question, because today's topic is your new book. Ok then, how do you see it yourself?

 

Yan Weihong: Thank you for your question, and for your interest in our “NEW” book, I emphasized the meaning of “NEW” because not only was it just released, but the concept is totally “NEW” as well. It is a “NEW” concept to talk about and view over 5,000 years of Chinese calligraphy in one book. The idea to create this book with western aesthetics is to lead the reader to a better understanding of Chinese aesthetics and philosophy that spans over 5,000 years. No one has ever done this kind of book before, and as you are probably aware, it has been tried many times before over the past two centuries, by Chinese scholars and calligraphers who have made huge efforts to do so. They tried to introduce the Chinese art of calligraphy to the western world, but have not had much of an impact; in addition, when we, I mean our Confucius Institute,presented Chinese calligraphy to our community in the traditional way by displaying mounted calligraphy along with contents of poems and famous quotations, the result was that our American students considered those calligraphy works like “chicken feet.” They had no idea how to interpret what they were looking at. So 20 years ago when I first came to this country, I started the process of trying to come up with what would be the best way to introduce Chinese calligraphy to western audiences. What I have found so far, is that by using authentic Western Pop Art and Minimalism to present Chinese calligraphy, this gives students a better understanding of what the art philosophy is. 

First, the “NEW” book already is of outstanding quality. Secondly, the individual characters we selected using six different scripts from different periods, indicate the transitions through 5,000 years of Chinese history. Instead of using the traditional contents of poems and quotations of entire scrolls, these single characters look fun and are a lot easier for Americans to grasp and appreciate each character. So the book is indeed, very innovative and creative. Thirdly, we respect traditional calligraphy styles: Dr. Zhao’s styles are the traditional types, and we wanted to present authentic scripts that our Chinese ancestors used a thousand years ago. Also the advantage of this book is the design. I really appreciate Mr. Liu Xiaoxiang's fantastic job on this book. He is an excellent designer, and the winner of World’s Best Book at the Germany Book Fair. I am so happy that we had him to design such a great book. You just mentioned that philosophically, who conceptualized the idea for the design of the book? Well, this is really a good question, for how to present the content of the book through the design of this book, which is very crucial. It took me almost three years to think about what the book design should be to best serve the content of the book and for what we needed to present to our American readers. We initiatively thought the way we should introduce Chinese calligraphy to the western readers, is what I just mentioned, was through the philosophy of Pop art, since this is one of the American aesthetic values. We wanted a book design that could also adhere to this initial idea of using individual characters that appeared on a separate single sheet of xuan paper, one by one. I also discussed using xuan paper for the printing with Dr. Zhao. The book designer, Mr. Liu, did a magnificent job with his quantitative design idea that he used in the book; finalizing it, deciding what the size of the book should be, and to have the book divided into two parts. So, overall, I am now recalling the history of the Chinese calligraphy publications; and all the varieties of calligraphy books. This “NEW” book is the first one that talks about the evolution of Chinese calligraphy over 5,000 years, particularly through Western views with the concept of “NEW” angles to see Chinese culture. We are very proud of this book and we are happy that our American readers will have the opportunity to read the book by reducing any barriers, allowing them to learn the Chinese culture in a way that makes logical sense. This book is the “NEW” face of Chinese calligraphy and represents a great achievement in the 21st century. We are pioneers, and our adventures of the “NEW” as a metaphor, are significant and have been fully explored in this book. I think this book is a “game changer” and now the rules of game have changed with these initiatives, in terms of a new concept of Chinese calligraphy in our time. This book will change the norms in the world of art, and the attitude towards Chinese calligraphy. It is my belief that this book not only has great potential, but that it can open the vent of creativity for many other art styles. This book may be the source of Chinese character installation art, Chinese character collage art, Chinese character sculpture art, and Chinese character paintings; like what Ms. Sibylle Schwarz has done. These ideas are really the seeds we are planting. When all of these art forms transcend into reality, like the hundreds of surrealistic Chinese character works done by Sibylle Schwarz;  again, she does a fantastic job of using Chinese characters in her art; …. by then, a museum of Chinese characters and western art could be built through the support of Hanban, the Confucius Institute Headquarters, Beijing. 

 

Wolf Rosenthal: Professor Weihong, what amazing imagination, great thoughts and vision!  I believe this book could lead to new art styles and benefit readers of the world.

 

Yan Weihong: See you in 2015 at the Frankfurt Olympic Book Fair. On behalf of Dr. Zhao Hong and the designer of the book, Liu Xiaoxiang, thank you so much for your valuable input on our new book! Hope you can visit me in the United States, so I could have a chance to serve you the best Chinese tea. Thank you, Mr. Wolf.

Wolf Rosenthal: My pleasure, Professor Yan, but you owe me tons of tons of quality Chinese tea…LOL…

以下照片由劉曉翔老師提供   

The following images provided by Xiaoxiang Liu