沃尔夫·罗森塔尔 WOLF ROSENTHAL

与德国著名记者精彩对话中国书法(第一篇)

时间: 2014年1月12日,美国夏洛特与德国法兰克福连线

 

伟红WEIHONG YAN: 美国费佛尔大学文学院教授,孔子学院院长

WOLF ROSENTHAL: 德国资深新闻记者WOLF ROSENTHAL 

谈新书《囊括万殊 裁成一相: 中国汉字“六体书”艺术》(简称:《六体书》)

阎伟红 WEIHONG YAN

《囊括万殊 裁成一相: 中国汉字“六体书”艺术》

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

作者: 赵宏[中国],阎伟红[美国],书籍设计:刘晓翔[中国],英文编辑:David Heckel [美国]

出版:中国高教出版社

2010年,阎伟红教授首次提出了六体书书籍出版和六体书海外书法推广和教学思路

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN: 沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔先生,您好!不知您之前学习过中国书法或汉字没有?您喜欢我称呼您沃尔夫,还是罗森塔尔先生?

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL: 伟红教授,我们已经是老朋友了,叫我沃尔夫就可以了。说到中国书法,很多年来我一直十分喜欢,但还没有真正学习过书法。您和赵宏教授的《六体书》一书给我莫大的鼓舞,它将是我付诸行动的一个最大动力,我想我会像小学生一样开始学习中国书法。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN: 沃尔夫先生,那太好了!非常感谢您对书法的热情,保持一颗童心永远是件令人愉快的事情。作为欧洲人,您对中国书法有怎样的观点?能从您个人的角度来谈谈中国书法作为一种艺术语言在视觉上和西方艺术的不同吗?

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL: 我认为中国的书法艺术与众不同,它在视觉上能够让人赏心悦目,舒缓情绪,放松心灵。虽然我不懂汉语,但是中国书法总是能够激起我的好奇心。这些年来我发现我对中国文化越来越感兴趣。伟红教授,看了您在社交媒介上推介的中国书法作品尤其是那些英文注释让我对中国书法有了更深的理解。中国的书法在世界文化中无疑是一种独特的艺术形式,它带给人们舒适、平和和安静的感觉。而西方艺术更倾向于直白的表达,作品往往以艺术家和市场为中心。中国的书法则含蓄而宁静,这有助于人们长寿。

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:是的,书法本身具有禅意之功能,您说的很好,请您继续说……

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:是的,中国书法犹如人类历史中那些传奇的故事,它充满神秘,让我常常好奇不已。中国的独特文化吸引我去学习书法,但我却不知道从哪里入手,应该怎样去学习——这也许是借口,我总是担心自己去理解和学习书法的时间不够。不过现在,您和赵教授出版的这本新书已经鼓励和激发我迈出学习中国书法的第一步了,感谢这本书的魅力!

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:您有文房四宝吗?如果没有,我可以寄给您一些。

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:我知道中国的文房四宝(Four Treasures),我想如果我收到您寄过来的文房四宝,我会放到我银行的保险箱里,有朝一日,拍卖出去来获得一笔财富......伟红教授,您看这主意怎么样? 其实,我这里想要说的是中国文化的魅力以及您的《六体书》一书将中国5,000年的文明史用极其简单的方式使读者轻而易举的知道中国汉字的美,您的这种创新思想实在了不起......

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN: 谢谢您,卖了文房四宝,这确实是个积聚财富的好主意。文房四宝是书写时使用的纸、墨、笔、砚(Xuan Paper, Chinese ink, Chinese brush and ink stone)。您说到书法的简约风格 (Simplicity),就此,我想和您谈这么一个观点(Conceptual),我感觉,中国书法在5,000多年前就具备了今天西方现代意义上的简约哲学思想。中国的书法作品运用的色彩极简单,墨的黑色和宣纸的白色这两种颜色,便创造出一个简约的对比强烈的视觉作品。这也使我想起了西方艺术史上的一种流派——简约主义艺术(Minimalism),他们以“简亦是繁,少亦为多” (Less is more)作为其核心的学说(Doctrine),我曾经记得简约主义运动是以反对以杰克逊·波拉克(Jackson Polloct)为代表的西方抽象表现主义(Abstract Expressionism)繁杂的理念而风行世界,以求视觉艺术的简单,却表达深邃的内涵视觉艺术感动观者。这样看来,几千年前中国的祖先在汉字书法方面已经开始追求这种简约而深刻的审美哲学思想了。

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:我赞同您的观点。在德国,简约主义艺术也十分流行,其实世界也十分认可简约主义,例如著名的德国大师迪特尔 · 拉姆斯(Dieter Rams),我想大家都知道他。您说的很对啊,看来中国人的祖先早在5,000多年前就制定了我们现在在视觉艺术中才运用的简约和审美条律,西方和东方其实很多方面是相通的。伟红教授,中国书法作为这样一种有价值的艺术形式,无疑值得人们去研究她,找到一个合适的方式向世界介绍中国书法是十分重要的,同时中国书法也是西方与东方的一个很好纽带啊。我从未见到过像《六体书》这样好的书法书,我认为《六体书》这本书是一个革命性创新,我认为这本书找到了向世界展示中国书法的有效方式,她散发着西方和东方强烈的审美气息,我很喜欢,我也注意到最近网络上许多人在关注您的这本书,且对其评价也很高。

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:   是啊,不管是艺术还是哲学,也不管是西方还是东方,艺术使全世界团结在一起, (Art Unites the People of the Earth.) 我们都拥有相同的智慧,东西方的审美和创作思想各有其方法论,所得结果却是相同的,最终我们殊途同归了,中国书法风格与西方简约主义(Minimalism)不谋而合就是最好的例子,真是神奇!其实,这也正是我们创作这本书的初衷,这本书是特为西方读者编写的,我们一定要把这本书以一种西方人理解和熟悉的“纽带”和西方读者联系到一起。《六体书》也更多的把东西方的哲学思想融合在了一起,这种融合体现出辉煌的魅力。二元对立(binary system)之天道与人道合一(unity of yin and yang)对今天的后殖民主义(postcolonialism)思潮是一个警示。爱因斯坦的理论把宇宙看做一个整体,从这个角度说,佛教的宇宙观与爱因斯坦理论相同,艺术属于全人类。5,000年前,中国汉字本身的出现与天(Heaven)有密切关联,中国人说的“天” (Heaven)即宇宙。

​书法:赵宏

Chinese character"female"in orcale bone script by Hong Zhao.       

   超现实主义:西蓓丽 · 舒尔茨

Surrealized "female" by Sibylle Schwarz

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!

上图注释:汉字与西方超现实主义绘画的完美结合。研究人员: 西蓓莉女士,赵宏教授与阎伟红教授。“《说文解字》部首与超现实主义绘画”-- 汉字成为超现实主义绘画形式其目的为探索《说文解字》,这一中国也是世界上最古老的字典,将汉字符号以书法美的形式运用于超现实主义绘画之中,以此本土化思路将中国的汉字美以高效捷径的方式传播到世界上去,同时,阎教授对《说文解字》540部首进行了逐字逐句的英文和德文翻译。(该研究计划为汉字本土化国际化“中西合璧”跨学科学术研究项目系列之二)

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL: 伟红教授,您和赵宏博士合著的这本书给艺术界带来了新的概念,它描述了中国书法美学史上不同时期的特点,也做出了整合西方与中国美学理念的蓝图。说到您的“中西合璧”项目,譬如2013年您和西蓓莉共同完成的“中西合璧”学术研究,不仅使美国和欧洲国家的观者受益,人们把他们的兴趣放在了新的艺术作品上。将书中的六体书汉字以超现实主义思想诠释出来,我感觉您这个项目十分高明,《六体书》的布局理念,对“中西合璧”的项目也会有巨大的益处,我认为这个项目十分独特,《六体书》也有助于学术项目的发展和推广以及读者对中国过去和现在的文化和历史的理解。当然,更重要的是它融合了中国书法和现代艺术,这是非常了不起的创新,具有变革性的意义。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:我同意您的看法。我已经感受到这本书对文化推广的贡献和意义。

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL: 完全同意,《六体书》的未来价值将是不朽的,我住在德国的法兰克福,这里有世界上最大的图书展览 --- 图书展的奥林匹克,我几乎每年都参加,目前已经参加了35届。您的《六体书》可以参加2014年法兰克福书展。我十分愿意带您去见出版商,将这本书翻译成德语并出版,来让德国、奥地利和瑞士的读者分享您的成果。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:我目前们在翻译英语和西班牙语,英语翻译基本完成了,如果能翻译成德语让更多的读者了解中国书法那就更好了。我记得您说过您在歌德学院工作过,是吧?

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:在我做法兰克福书展国外展览部负责人期间,常与歌德学院合作,歌德学院同孔子学院一样,为世界做出了很大的贡献。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:十分感谢您,您的建议和评论对我们有很大的意义。和您谈我的新书又谈到中国书法,我感到很高兴,因为您热爱中国文化,又是艺术鉴赏家。

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:我每天要浏览50件或者更多的艺术品。我也知道你对很多种类的艺术品都十分通晓,你鉴别不同艺术形式和种类的作品都独具慧眼,我看到你对欧洲绘画的评价很有深度,敬佩。

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:谢谢恭维。您说您参加了35届的法兰克福书展,那么也一定看过很多世界上设计优秀的书。您如何看待《六体书》这本书的设计呢?

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL: 这本书设计十分巧妙、布局新颖、结构易懂、纸张可触,册页采用宣纸印刷是非常好的做法,这些都是书的设计非常重要的元素了,你的这本书设计很特别,我很欣赏,可谓大师之作,据我的经验,我认为它非常的好!我十分期待你能够参加2014年在我们城市举办的图书展览。我想向你提一个问题:因为我们今天的话题是这本刚刚出版的新书,你本人作为作者之一又怎样评价这本书? 这本书的原始构想,无论内容,和视觉设计是从哪里来的?

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:这个问题问的好,谢谢您,以及您对这本“新”书饱有的兴趣,我之所以强调 “新” 这个字,不仅是因为这本书新近发行,还因为它完全用了“新”的理念来审视拥有5,000多年历史的汉字书法文化,它完全运用了符合当今西方美学史的思想来构造这本“新”书,使西方读者了解跨越5,000年中国的审美哲学,这是从没有人做过的一件事,也是《六体书》的“开山”之处。您也许已经意识到了,大量的中国文人学者在过去的两个世纪付出了大量的努力,试图向西方世界传播中国书法,而结果却并没有产生很大的影响。当我们用传统的方法和海量的书法作品向我们美国学生进行展示时, 美国学生很难做到理解和欣赏这些书法作品,有些学生甚至用“鸡爪子”(Chicken Feet)来形容王羲之等大使的书法作品。鉴于此,三年前,其实是二十多年前了,我就开始思考书法在西方的位置了。三年前结识了赵宏博士,他是一位非常著名的中国书法家,我们一起开始探索能够向西方读者和社区推介中国书法的最为有效的方法。后来,逐步发现,我们可以用西方美学和西方艺术哲学等,例如简约艺术、佛洛依德的心理学理论,等等,他们所熟悉的理念和审美观向他们展示中国书法,这本书就很好的具备了我们的这一观点。我们通过简单的方法,选取单个的汉字在中国5,000多年各个不同时期的六种字体,这对美国人来说简单却又十分有趣,他们也很容易理解,这本书就是为了这个目的而创作的,她的创新性,之前无人尝试过这样的做法;第二个特点是,书法家赵宏教授,也是一位传统的学院派的书法家,选用中国传统书法演示华夏祖先在几千年前是如何写字的,如此来为世界传递最正宗的书法艺术;第三,我们非常荣幸,请到了刘晓翔先生,一位中国著名书籍设计师,他是多次获得世界最美的书的设计者,他将自己的设计智慧贡献给了这本书,犹如您所说的,这本书的设计非常成功,感谢您对该书在设计方面的认可。

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:请继续,我很喜欢你的思路,很有兴趣了解更多,因为我希望中国书法能着眼未来,我们欧洲人最喜欢新的游戏规则的发生,《六体书》是可以代表中国书法的一个新的游戏规则。

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:的确如此,《六体书》的设计思想对书法内容的展示极其的重要,要做到设计是为内容而服务的,我们的内容的思考就是以西方的波普艺术流派去理解中国书法,这必须符合我们推广书法的初衷并与之理念融洽和谐,在认识刘晓翔先生之前,我和赵教授多次讨论了使用宣纸印刷;每个汉字成为一个独立的一页;简约的设计是我们的目的,等等,刘晓翔先生也体现了非凡的设计才能,做了高质量的量化设计(basic quantitative design),因此非常的成功,达到了我们预期的哲学思路。我也回想到,尽管中国现存的书法图书极为繁多,但这是第一本通过西方人的视角去看待中国汉字5,000年历史的演变的一本书,无论是内容还是设计面孔都给美国读者提供了很好的机会,他们可以以自己喜欢的方式了解中国文化和汉字书法,不仅如此,对中国读者,读这本书也对他们是一种传统文化的补课,因为他们中间有很多人不了解自己的汉字历史。根据我对书法读物在全美市场的状况的了解,几乎没有一本既具学术性,又具欣赏性以及教育性价值的书法读物,我可以自信的说,《六体书》是一本21世纪中国书法向世界展示其新面孔的书,也是一本中国书法在21世纪对世界艺术有着巨大贡献的一本非同一般的巨著,希望世界通过这本书,对中国书法产生兴趣和逐步喜欢中国书法,并能逐步意识到书法对世界艺术的价值,并对书法产生新的认识和了解。我们是中国书法海外本土战略的先行者和博弈者,这也是这本书的重要之处。我们对书法本土推广的思想,很可能改变世界艺术史在该领域的游戏规则,一种新的创新即一种新的规则的展示,很多人还未意识到,包括中国人本身也未意识到,中国汉字具备很大的潜力可创造其他新的艺术形式。如同著名德国艺术家西蓓莉 · 舒尔茨(Sibylle Scharze)女士的作品一样(下图2),如同毕加索所说:“如果我生为中国人,我会做书法家,而不是画家”。(请看下图1毕加索与张仃合影)。

我们的新书可能成为西方艺术家汉字装置 (Installation)艺术的创作源泉,汉字拼贴画(Collage)艺术的创作源泉,汉字雕刻艺术的创作源泉,汉字绘画的创作源泉,我说的这些想法也是我们现在正在计划中的。当所有这些艺术形式付诸现实后,如同我指导德国著名艺术家西蓓莉·舒尔茨(Sibylle Scharze)女士创作的几百幅超现实主义风格的中国汉字一样,我们将建立一个由中国国家汉办·孔子学院总部支持下的 “中国汉字和西方艺术” 博物馆。

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:伟红教授,非常欣赏您的洞察力,您为中国书法构思了多么神奇和伟大的一个宏伟蓝图啊! 祝贺这本书能够引领新的艺术形式,使全球的读者受益。再有,西蓓莉女士用超现实主义艺术语言诠释赵宏教授的汉字书法是一个非常有趣的话题,我们以后有机会接着您的“中西合璧”项目进行一次交流,我很感兴趣,谢谢!

 

阎伟红WEIHONG YAN:太好了,汉字书法的超现实主义绘画是前所未有的跨学科研究项目,我们一定多家交流。期待我们在2015年法兰克福书展上再次见面。我代表赵宏博士,和本书的设计者刘晓翔老师感谢您对这本书的热情关注。如果您来美国,我将会为您准备品质上乘的中国茶款待您。谢谢您,沃尔夫先生,再见!

 

沃尔夫 · 罗森塔尔WOLF ROSENTHAL:荣幸至极,是啊!您这下子可是欠了我太多太多的上品中国茶叶了,再见!

注释:

(1)Dieter Rams 迪特尔·拉姆斯:德国人,简约主义设计风格的代表人物、新功能主义的创始人和代言人,20世纪工业设计标准的制定者。(born May 20, 1932 ---)

(2)张仃是法国巴黎国际博览会中国馆的总设计师。照片下方的英文大意是:毕加索说,假如他是中国人,他会成为一个书法家,而不是画家。张仃(1917年-2010年),男,号它山,辽宁黑山人。著名艺术家、教育家、清华大学教授、原中央工艺美术学院院长。张仃先生是清华大学著名教授,是美术界一位德高望重的代表性艺术家,是中国现代美术教育体系的一位开创者。被称为20世纪中国的“大美术家”和20世纪中国美术的“立交桥”。( Source: http://bbs.wenxuecity.com/art/12784.html)

(3)yin and yang unity/Yi Zhuan says, "Yin and yang are what is called Dao", (Dao means the basic law of the unity of opposites in the universe). 道是宇宙的本源,它超乎物质和意识之上而存在。二元对立 (binary system/ Dualistic-cosmology).

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