3/8/14 2 new collages and a few stories / by Philip Tarlow

yesterday as i worked, i was listening to thelonious monk & john coltrane. i had the feeling that, were 11th c. chinese calligrapher huang tingjian alive when those two were in their prime, he would have gotten their music, and they his calligraphy.

huang believed that calligraphy should be a spontaneous and expressive "picture of the mind." (maxwell k. hearn). this is not to say that huang worked with wild abandon, like the abstract expressionists. while cursive script appears to be written swiftly, the brush actually moves with great deliberation. but huang did "riff." when he was excited about a particular passage, he continued working without pausing to regularly reink his brush. when a character appears numerous times in a text, he avoids monotonous repetition by changing the pattern of strokes, so that the character looks quite different in each iteration. (see the image on the bottom row, taken from maxwell k. hearn's "how to read chinese paintings.")

in the second row of images are two early stages of w.h. smith,  showing once again how these collages almost always begin as a loose reinterpretation of my plein air paintings, which you can see in the background of the photo of my studio in the 3rd row, left. pieces of deconstructed calligraphic marks, as well as snippets from magazines, letters, etc. are then introduced in layers.

the title of the collage in the top row, right, "w.h. smith"  refers to images that appear in the upper left and upper and lower right of this collage. they are snippets of a watch made by british watchmaker w.h. smith, who, with his 6 assistants turns out a mere 10 watches a year. many feel he has surpassed the swiss, and is creating the most beautiful timepieces in the world, unsurpassed in their elegance and mechanical ingenuity. just beneath the partial image of the watch seen in the upper left is smith himself, with his magnifying glass mounted on his glasses.

in the 3rd row, right is one of the many warm up exercises i did this morning. i was looking at images of huang's calligraphy and loosely following his marks.