A SCULPTOR AND CALLIGRAPHER

My interest in calligraphy began over twenty years ago when I had to discolor a large square sheet of steel. I wet a rag in weakly acidic water. It was like brush writing with thin ink on dark paper, and it felt graceful. At about the same time, for another project, I worked out a way of writing Western script based letters that were easy to read when written vertically. Too easy since I wanted my work to be seen but not read. So I wrote my text in French and, as Iíd hoped, few people who saw it ever noticed the calligraphy was Western not Asian.

More than a year, and several pieces, later I decided to become a student of a Japanese calligraphy master with the long-term idea of writing on metal with the flame of an acetylene torch. That turned out to be impractical, but I never stopped studying.

Then in 2000 I finally returned to my old experiments with writing Western script vertically. I began brushing a translation of the opening to Chuang Tzuís chapter called “Free and Easy Wandering.” As I practiced my letters began to change and become more fluid. The letter “a” was altered so it became just like the original Roman letter “a.” The letters “t” and “h” joined together to become one unit. It didnít seem to matter which letter came first – the “t” or the “h” – the way it does when words get written horizontally.

Cumulatively these changes finally allowed me to write my vertical text in English. To Western eyes the writing appears to be Chinese. Native Chinese however, dismiss it as Japanese, while the Japanese, though finding it unintelligible, seem to accept it as another brush form.

This Eurasian Calligraphy now allows me to add elements of grace to sculptural works that might not otherwise possess such qualities. And, more importantly, it allows me to add language, for whatever conceptual or formal reasons, without having the mere sight of text automatically hijack the act of observation.

3/15/05