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19. Yi Bi Hua November 26, 2007

Posted by kentneo in Art.
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Recently at “Jijen Zhuan” (art gallery), there was an exhibition that I went to, the artist’s works were very interesting, similar to one of the styles I have tired, too bad I did not get a chance to know him as he also enjoys learning about “wenzi” and from there one can derive “yibi hua”. My friend the gallery owner, Yao Tuo, introduced him to me but because my friend gave me a lift home, I didn’t have too much time to chat and we parted too soon. I have talked about “wenzi hua”several times, I feel that since I haven’t discussed “yibi hua”, why don’t I elaborate on that today.


What is the difference then between “wenzi hua” and “yibi hua”? well for “wenzi hua”, one need only research from “shuo wen” (the Chinese ancient dictionary), once you get the foundation, execution becomes easy. But for “yibi hua”, the topic becomes important. I remember two years ago before my illness that I did a number of these paintings, including Tia Guai Li (one of the eight immortals), Zai Duen, Tao Ming Yang etc. but am not sure where I’ve put them all. Because of the requests of my friends, I did a few more and placed them with a gallery, I think I kept some for myself but a lot of them seem to be missing. Occasionally, I find a photograph among my pile of photographs but not sure where the original has gone.


There are no limits to the topics one can use for “yibi hua”, it is the construction is difficult. One can use the eastern technique of “sui mo” or the western watercolor, the technique may be different but the effort required is the same. The well known Chinese artist, Zhou Wuji, who is famous in the west is know for his oil paintings (in his early years) has now reverted back to “sui mo” to express himself.


“Sui mo” and watercolors are brothers but differ in the tools used to make paintings, the techniques are also very similar. Artists of both genres should be able to crossover without much difficulty. The interaction / interstudy of both techniques should gap the differences between the two types of art communities.


With regards to the topics of “yibi hua” there are many, one can try them on flowers, birds, insects, grass, I personally did not try them all. Landscapes are the only category that cannot be done with this technique. Human figures and Zen paintings can definitely be explored further. For landscapes there may be another possible way, I am now experimenting with this, using rough/draft paper and “po mo” (flicker ink method), it may or may not need color, I will talk about this topic another day.


After determining a topic for “yibi hua”, one then has to do a number of sketches, one can use a pen, coal, crayon, pencil on a notebook. After that the best brush to use is one made of wolf hair (used for writing xiao kai, or small characters) and then using “tia xian miao” (iron wire lines) on rice paper. If you are satisfied with the results then you have finished your painting.


Not all sketches left behind by old artists are good but yet some artist’s sketches are worth more than the final paintings. For example, the prices of Xu Beihong’s sketches are quite expensive and are more precious than his actual paintings. This is because his sketches are the most original of his paintings, where he even makes notations. Today, these sketches are printed for young artists, interested in using his sketches to learn his technique. Qi Baishi, who was such a hardworking artist and writer also did many sketches, he did many of the same sketch but used different colors. In Xu Beihong’s sketches we can see the horse that he drew, he made notes of “front kick”, “back kick” and other finer points.


To be an artist is not any easier than to be a scientist. Those in economics need an abacus or calculators, scientists need computers and rely on mathematics, artists need their sketches, all the professions are similar in that one needs to use the brain. Why does society treat artists lightly? It is because in a realistic society, artists do not generate the public hard cash. But do you know that the Japanese have long calculated that prices of art objects can rise 35% per year and avidly and extensively collect art objects.


The future of “yibi hua” is endless, but there are limitations, it is too specialized a topic, where the construction is rather difficult but one cannot cut corners and the topic has to be of something substantial or meaningful, without a good topic, the construction becomes much harder. If you get the topic and construction right, the painting doesn’t take long to execute, in fact it is rather quick and that misleads people into thinking it is an easy area to do. But it is actually like finding gold nuggets in the dessert. I think “yibi hua” are like precious stones, not discovered yet. Most people do not appreciate it because all they observe are just a few simple strokes and some color and it just looks too easy to execute.

 It is like “Han Shan Zi” (1546 –1643, is considered one of the four most eminent Buddhist monks in the late Ming Dynasty [1368-1644] partly for his social-political interactions with Ming court, interpretation of Buddhist texts, and most importantly, for his Chan practice), he lived in the caves of Han Yan, had been through a lot of experiences with other people and had lived in the various temples but left society along with “Shi De” towards Han Shan (cold mountain). Who would believe that in present day, so many western scholars are doing research on him and have published in foreign languages about him, his thoughts and his poems. So, why did I use “Li Tia Guai” (one of the eight immortals), “Ji Dian”, “Tao Yuan Ming” (365 – 427, also known as Tao Chien or Tao Quin, represents both the old and new in an era of China that saw years of war and chaos), “Buddha Dharma” for “yibi hua”, the important thing is that the construction of the main part of the human figure stands out, if you look at the painting, apart from the one main brush stroke that makes up the Buddha Dharma’s face and the main single stroke that makes up his garment, with some bright colors, a darker ink to emphasize the subject, his eyebrow, beard and eyes, sitting on his straw mat.  The alternate use of “thick ink” (ie dark) and “light ink”, further enhances the “yibi hua”, by adding the bright red (of his garment), makes the overall painting stand out. This is the success in the interplay of the topic and the painting, which comprises of “long mo” (thick ink), “chien mo” (light ink), “zhong se” (heavy color) are techniques to express “yibi hua”, otherwise just a few simple strokes on a painting are usually not appreciated by people [who seem to want their money’s worth?], how then will they enjoy “yibi hua” (one stroke painting), where simplicity is concerned, people are so difficult! With regards to Buddha Dharma, I have drawn a lot of them, some big pieces, some middle sized pieces, and some small pieces because this is a topic that people from the east and west like very much, especially the Japanese. They have painted many outstanding pieces of Buddha Dharma and highly respect him. We from the east, have a very deep impression of him, which originates from the “Shao Lin Temple”, of the Song Mountains. Mostly our introduction is from television and movies, which everyone seems to know about. In reality, Buddha Dharma is an Indian person, from the “Luo Yang Jia Lan Ji” (A Record of the Temples of Luo Yang), it says, ”he comes from the west gates, a Buddhist, a person from Bosu (Turkey)”. According to “Tan Ling Shui”, “he is the third son of the king of Dapoloman from Tien Ju Guo”. The people of Bosu are the same as the people of Tien Ju Guo, that is not too important, what is important with regards to Buddha Dharma is that (1) he faced a wall for 9 years, (2) he is able to cross bodies of water, just standing on a small leaf and (3) his coffin had one shoe (???). In reality, he established the Shao Lin Temple that produced a lot of talented fighting monks that brought the eastern art of fighting to the west. The Japanese boast that once Shao Lin Kung Fu is in Japan, it will be similar to calligraphy, that one day, “when China wants to learn calligraphy they will have to come to Japan.” They do have the skills for every road and every corner one can see a center for calligraphy. In Japan, they have many calligraphy competitions and they are held in grander fashion and more respectable than what we have put together. They have taken the art of flower arrangement to become “ikebana”, they have taken our tea ceremonies, they have taken our art of self-defense to become, “judo”. They have even copied our abacus but have modified it, where the top row has only 1 bead instead of 2 beads. They have taken our writing system and modified to “katakana” and “hiragana”. Anything to do with culture, they call it the “treasure of culture” and yet we look upon cultured people as nothing much, we treat cultured people as “poor”.  There is an old saying, “cultured people are treated lightly”, this is quite true, I hope that the next generation will change and look upon culture differently. There are a lot of mythical stories surrounding Buddha Dharma’s death, according to the Legend of the High Monk Buddha Dharma, “… his teachings were widespread but no one knows when he passed away”. His disciple the Second Patriach, Hui Ke Juan, was believed to have said, “he died at Luo Bing”, seems to be more reliable. According to “Gao Jen Juan” (Book of the High Monk?), “Buddha Dharma wandered south and then north to Wei, along the way, he taught many people about Zen”. This is of the time of Liu Song (emperor?) and is around 420 – 478 CE. According to “Juan Den Lu”, around the year 520 – 526 AD, Buddha Dharma had met with Emperor Liang Wu, but they were not very compatible. In the “Guangdong Che Shi” (Records of the Magistrate of Guangdong?) tells of the Emperor inviting Buddha Dharma to Jinling (today’s Nanjing), the Emperor asked Buddha Dharma, “since I have been emperor, I have built temples, helped monks, written Buddhist books, do I get any spiritual merits for this?”, Buddha Dharma replied, “none of them will earn you spiritual merit”. The Emperor asked why? And the answer was, “if you compare humans to heavens, humans are but a speck, there are shadows, are those real?” ???? The Emperor then asked, how can I get more (enlightenment) merit then? Buddha Dharma said, “????” lost plot on conversation… With this type of conversation, we can see that they did not really get along with each other, after that, Buddha Dharma left and headed north, apparently he had skills in “light kung fu” and was able to cross the major river on only a small leaf. Buddha Dharma “faced a wall, meditating, for 9 years”, is something we should be aware of, for he was able to practice such discipline for 9 whole years, such persistence can only bring success. Learning from Buddha Dharma, no matter what your skill level, especially in art, persistence will bring success. The way to move forward is to “learn” and then to “do”, these two points, first to “learn” (as much as you can) and then to “do” (execute all that theory into something of practice), failure is not possible. Confucius did say, “if you learn but not do, …. If you do but not learn…” In the end, according to “Juan Fa Bao Ji”, “Song Yun returned from the west, at Cong Ling he met Buddha Dharma, who had his slippers thrown across his shoulders. As that isn’t too visually appealing, Buddha Dharma is always painted or portrayed as carrying one slipper on a staff. To do “yibi hua”, one has to paint something that evokes something that stands out, brighter color should be used for emphasis and can add to the visual impact of the painting. “Be brave with ink” and “be brave with color” is the way to go.