Peirene Press Two hour books to be devoured in a single sitting Literary cinema for those fatigued by film. I read nearly half of this novella, but it simply stirred little interest in me, so I moved on to another Peirene novella, Sea Of Ink, Published In Switzerland In , Won The Prix Des Audituers De La Radio Suisse RomandeA Beautiful Novella InShort Chapters AndPictures About The Life Of Bada Shanren, The Most Influential Chinese Painter Of All Times In , Bada Shanren Is Born Into The Chinese Royal Family When The Old Ming Dynasty Crumbles, He Becomes An Artist, Committed To Capturing The Essence Of Nature With A Single Brushstroke Then The Rulers Of The New Qing Dynasty Discover His Identity And Bada Must Feign Madness To Escape In this small book Sea Of Ink Richard Weihe portrays the painter and calligrapher Bada Shanren, a prince of the Chinese Ming Dynasty in the 17th century As a series of sketches in black ink and in brief chapters Weihe outlines the steps in the life of a man who was a prince with a promised bright future, a fugitive, a Buddhist monk and founder of a monastery, a vagabond and considered mad A man who takes during his lifetime many different names in a long spiritual quest materialized by his ink drawings.At the end of the Ming dynasty overthrown by the Manchus and several upheavals it tells the life of Prince Zhu Da who sees the world crumbling around him Zhu Da strips himself of his imperial insignia, responsibilites and duties and seeks the path to wisdom and the ultimate brushstroke, aided by an old master of the great ink A biographical narrative and a manual in Zen philosophy all at once this small novella is written in a fair, accurate, streamlined and poetical language The chapters are short and precise A narrative full of often puzzling philosophical sentences about life and painting Through the ink paintings the reader perceives the transcendence of art that reveals the colors of the world by using only shades of black and gray.It reads so exciting that one gets the feeling of seeing the artist himself at work and the images appear as unexpected revelations to our hero This is insofar very accessible by reproductions of eleven brush paintings made in China in the late 17th century which illustrate perfectly the descriptions of the painters work and his mind Each time the brush strokes are explained It is a back and forth between those illustrations and the written word which makes it exciting and rewarding Richard Weihe manages to erase the boundaries between the genres, showing that art and writing is in a relationship to the outside and the inner world of every one.The author makes one dive into a biography which is in the spirit of his paintings There is an openness to the world in which the artist is gathering around his meager fire images of his surroundings to relate to men In this quest for the right gesture for the painter and the right word for the writer their responses are available to us Or rather fragments of answers that are milestones towards an understanding of the world With paintings of a fish, a flower, a rock, a landscape the artist delivers a message of simplicity. An historical novel and poetic meditation by a German writer concerning the life of a seventeenth century Chinese artist and calligrapher This layering of time, identity and culture is an echo of the hero s life, which, shaped by the upheavals of that period in Chinese history, finds him, as a member of a violently deposed ruling clan, fleeing his home, losing his family and entering a long period of monastic exile, during which he is tutored in the spiritual mysteries of applying ink to paper and adopts a succession of different names as his self perception develops The effect is somewhat like a Chinese Russian doll, with identity concealed within identity.Weihe writes in a simple, fable like style which is almost faux naif, and particularly excels in his descriptions of the protagonist s dreams and his drawings, a selection of which are beautifully reproduced in the book The whole package comprises a rich visual and literary journey into Chinese history, culture and thought, and the essence of creativity, from a European perspective, and is well worth your financial and temporal investment I am left wondering, however, if the numbers of chapters and drawings 51 and 11, one short of the quantities of weeks and months in a year are themselves significant. This book has an unusual beauty as it takes us to China, initially under the Ming Dynasty then under the Manchus The main character, Zhu Da, born a prince in 1626, is brought up in a palace Very early on he shows great artistic talents and has a future all designed for him His father, himself an artist, made him step barefoot into a bowl full of ink and then walk along the length of a roll of paper and helps him develop his skills A few years later though, as the Manchus take over and dominate the whole of China, he has to go into hiding Zhu escapes and retreats to a monastery where he takes the name Bada Shanren Living a very simple life of poverty and renouncement, he becomes a master of brush and ink, creating simple paintings which are sometimes close to calligraphy, He nourishes and perfects his art finding inspiration from nature, at the same time feeding his wisdom and spiritualty Over the years Bada Shantren becomes a great master in this asian art, and he is still remembered today The poetry of some passages is beautiful, and the singular fate of this skillful artist is very unusual Translated from the German, the book is divided in 51 short sections, like brush strokes, with very fine illustrations Another inspiring and unusual read from Peirene Press. The fictionalized biography of a 17th Century Chinese painter, this is a gorgeous book, lush and sparse at once What I enjoyed most was the tightening scope of the novel it begins with the broad sweep of history and large political changes occurring in China through war and invasion, but moves ever inward from there As the painter protagonist Shanren Badu strips awayandhis external life to focus on his art and the perfection of his inked lines, the novel becomes equally focused and compressed Most impressive in writerly terms were the passages describing the painter s motions in creating a particular work those paintings are included in the text, and the description are such amazing reconstructions or perhaps deconstructions of their creation fictionalized, of course, but utterly convincing because of how richly they recapture the motion of the brush after the fact. More of a meditation on how to find the Way, Tao, but also a description of any artist s quest for perfection, that yearning to express the inexpressible, to pin down nature and reality but also one s soul Also an interesting portrayal of a troubled period in Chinese history although that is almost secondary but so much of the artist s way of life is determined by those events. These exquisite brief chapters have used the ink of words to describe the sea of ink that was the life of the Chinese painter Bada Shanren They are delicate brush strokes that convey the movement of a life that became one with art It is a poetic reflection of the minimalist beauty of the art of a painter who was committed to capturing the essence of nature with a single brushstroke. This little book is about a 17th century prince who becomes a monk, and then a painter and calligrapher It s a series of cameos about the artist Bada Shanren flitting from one era of his life to the next Events fly past with an amorphous stamping of a moment in time not unlike the infinitely delicate paintings which are illustrated and described in this beautiful book The book flits though Shanren s life He often changes his name Zhu Da, Chunanqu, Xuege, Geshan, and finally Bada Shanrenalmost symbolic of the way he leads so many different lives as a prince, as a monk, as a husband, as an artist. Most of all I enjoyed the descriptions of his paintings Here is an extreme example In some ways I enjoyed the serene beauty of his quieter paintings even The master gave Xuege a brush which was as long as his legs and as thick as a young tree trunk He instructed his pupil to stretch out his arms and hold the brush by its loop so that the tips of the bristles just touched the floor.After the first circle Hongmin noticed that Xuege s lips were pressed tightly shut You should paint, not stop breathingHe completed the circle Xuege completed his third, fourth and fifth circles Then he forgot to count Each step became a torture He was just blindly following his own track. Was it the ninth Or the tenth His master s gaze burnt into his back, but he knew that he would not be able to manage yet another circleThen he collapsed on top of the brush His body fell onto the cluster of bristles, squashing them so that the last remaining ink flowed out and made large dark stains on the paper as well as on his white robe He looked like a dying man lying in his own blood I read this book piecemeal Dipping into it as I would a book of poetry It was a wonderful, meditative pleasure.
Richard Weihe is a Swiss author who writes mainly in the German language He was educated in Zurich and Oxford He is mainly known for biographical works of artists, including the novel Meer de Tusche 2005 on the life of Bada Shanren and Der Milchozean 2010 based on Amrita Sher Gil Meer der Tusche won the Prix des Auditeurs de la Radio Suisse Romande and has been translated into English by Ja
- 112 pages
- Meer der Tusche
- Richard Weihe
- 28 October 2017 Richard Weihe