New English Calligraphy - Spring, River and Flowers on a Moonlit Night

Xu Bing


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ink on grass paper
hexaptych, each 183 x 98 cm
In 6 panels of hand-wrtiten calligraphy Xu Bing transcribes a famous poem in 'New English Calligraphy', his invented square word hybrid English/Chinese characters. 'New English Calligraphy – Spring, River and Flowers on a Moonlit Night' (2012), reveals Xu’s enduring interest in the communicative possibilities of this hybrid script, translating an early Tang Dynasty poem by Zhang Ruoxu. Most of Zhang’s works have been lost; this one, rediscovered, is one of the most beautiful in the Tang literary canon. It begins:
‘The tide in the spring river meets the flat ocean.
On the sea a bright moon is born from the tide
and shimmers waves for thousands of miles.
Nowhere on the spring river is without bright moon.’
Xu Bing’s 6-panelled text, read from top to bottom as is traditional, may be understood as the artist’s meditation on Chinese tradition, and his utopian proposition of translation across and between cultures — a dream of mutual understanding. Xu Bing says, ‘When brush and ink touches the Xuan paper, you feel a dialogue with nature. Your whole body and mind tune in with nature’s rhythm.’
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