Signs from Asia

From calligraphy to printing

9 juillet 2004 - 17 octobre 2004


The selection of paintings, prints, rubbings, calligraphy, books and writing implements presented in this exhibition is an invitation into the world of the East Asian scholar. More than a simple means of communication, calligraphy in China and Japan is considered one of the highest forms of expression of one’s personality and emotions, an art which requires discipline and years of study. Learning to trace characters is to learn to execute a series of movements in a prescribed order, following a certain number of fixed rules. Only when these are completely mastered, can one’s own individuality be expressed.

Before the advent of printing, the only method of reproducing examples of calligraphy was to make rubbings of texts carved into stone stelae. These rubbings, collected into albums, would be faithfully copied by generations of students. While the invention of printing revolutionised the spread of knowledge, it never replaced the art of calligraphy; however, it did allow the printing of calligraphy manuals, invaluable for students who could find technical and practical information in them, as well as examples of styles and compositions.

Printing can be an art in itself, particularly once the technique of multiple blocks for colour images was perfected in the 17th century. One of the most remarkable series of early colour prints ever produced was the Ten Bamboo Studio, of which three sheets are presented in the exhibition.

In his studio, the scholar surrounds himself with books and rubbings, as well as all the necessary implements to carry out his art: brushes and brush pots, ink stones and ink cakes, brush stands, water droppers, and seals were made of both humble and precious materials. The exhibition presents a selection of these, made of jade, porcelain, lacquer, bamboo or wood.