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Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China

December 11, 2013–April 6, 2014

The Written Word: Replication

Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China

Zhang Huan. Family Tree. China, 2001. Nine chromogenic prints. Sheet (each): 21 in. × 16 1/2 in. (53.3 × 41.9 cm). Image courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund

Three series of photographs address the traditional calligraphic discipline of replicating texts over and over again—either as an act of merit in the case of holy scriptures, or as a means of attaining individual proficiency. In the latter case, students immerse themselves in the study of past models until the physical rhythms of a writing style became second nature—much the way an athlete or musician gradually masters increasingly demanding techniques. Such mastery is regarded as a necessary first step in achieving creative freedom.

The works displayed in this section question the consequences of repetition. It may lead to a meditative state of higher consciousness, but it may ultimately leave no lasting impression. It may also obliterate the original content of a text or the individuality of the practitioner—or both.

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