Calligraphic Materiality and Multimodality: Modes of Expression and Representation in Site-specific Performance of Calligraphy at Sha Tin Town Hall, Hong Kong: Delight through the Eye and Childlike Heart

Chak Kwong Lau (Art Historian)

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact

2 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The work described in this calligraphy performance was supported by a grant (General Research Fund/ GRF) from the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong (Project Number: 12600521/ Project title: Calligraphic Materiality and Multimodality: Modes of Expression and Representation in Chinese Calligraphy and their Dynamics with Contexts of Use in the City of Hong Kong).
This site-specific performance of calligraphy was conducted in conjunction with the opening ceremony of Ying Wa Primary School Visual Arts Exhibition 2024, Sha Tin Town Hall, Hong Kong. Created as a large-scale, eye-catching title of the exhibition in the form of Chinese calligraphy-cum-performance art, the work’s literary content “Delight through the Eye and Childlike Heart” (瞳趣童心), reflects the essence of this exhibition of artworks by artistically talented children.
This work offers a wider significance of Chinese calligraphy in city life with elements of public display of Chinese language in the innovative context of site-specific performances of calligraphy. In sharp contrast with the conventional approach of producing and appreciating calligraphic works in conventional settings such as studios and museums, this large-scale site-specific performances of calligraphy was conducted at an unconventional venue in a more dynamic manner with emphases on not only the final creative output, but also the entire process of the performance with the calligrapher-performer’s forceful bodily movements, body aesthetics, children participation, and the performer’s purposeful effort to achieve——through his fervour and sense of humour——a lively, joyous and spirited ambience filled with laughter, applause and spontaneous dialogues and whimsical interactions between the performer and the audience.

Through an efficacious layer of children participation, this work’s literary content about children’s heart and creativity is intensely enhanced. Transcending the two-dimensional format of traditional calligraphy, this work’s unique concept and approach successfully offer a paradigm shift in both scholarly and creative research in Chinese calligraphy, transforming traditional calligraphy into a form of aesthetic-object-cum-public-message that connotes more profound meanings pertinent to the city and city life. This new paradigm thereby illuminates how calligraphy has been transformed from a literati-oriented, rarefied form of art with a restricted audience into a more accessible form of visual culture that reaches wider audiences.

Intriguingly exploring the concepts of calligraphic materiality and multimodality in the form of site-specific performance of calligraphy, this new mode of calligraphic expression and representation exists primarily in physical space interwoven with lively, improvisational huge brushstrokes executed by the artist and audience together, Chinese characters and text, verbal and bodily language, onsite sounds and ambience as well as traces of human touch. Beyond physical space, the calligraphy performance also circulates widely in cyber space, as it was captured and edited as a video (with subtitles in Chinese and English) published on YouTube.

With great novelty in thinking, concepts and results, this work is instrumental in developing new paradigms or fundamental new concepts for research and outstandingly creative in terms of significance, originality and rigour, thus making an excellent contribution to knowledge.

Moreover, this work was conducted in conjunction with a fully illustrated book manuscript under preparation, as the same PI’s scholarly research output of the same GRF research (Project Number: 12600521), with the following abstract:

Little research has been conducted on Hong Kong calligraphy. Previous works have largely treated calligraphy as a form of high art, produced and appreciated by only a small community of literati. As a result, it has been generally assumed that calligraphic art is of little importance except to a restricted circle of specialists. To compensate for this neglect of Hong Kong calligraphy’s wider significance, the PI’s previous GRF research, titled ‘Social and Cultural Implications of Chinese Calligraphy in Public Venues in Hong Kong’, examined calligraphic works in public venues around Hong Kong. Research findings revealed that this specific type of calligraphy has been playing a pivotal role in highlighting the cultural and historical significance of ancestral shrines, charity organisations, historic sites, temples, or Christian churches and other public venues. Beyond the scope of the PI’s previous research, this book examines calligraphic materiality and multimodality, and interprets modes of expression and representation in Chinese calligraphy and their dynamics with contexts of use in the city of Hong Kong. Inspiring calligraphic expressions in various sites signify a wide spectrum of traditional cultures, contemporary thoughts, city life, people’s aspirations, thus shedding light on people from different walks of life who make up Hong Kong society and on what has shaped their thoughts and values. Hence, this project will offer a significant contribution to the reconstruction of identity embodied in public calligraphy.
The book’s methodology offers a more encompassing approach for examining and interpreting the relationships and synergistic effects of the following factors: 1) calligraphic aesthetics and style as semiotic resources for meaning making; 2) calligraphic expressions manifested in a wide range of material forms in physical and cyber spaces; 3) alternative modes of calligraphic expression; and 4) calligraphy’s social and cultural contexts and contexts of use in Hong Kong. Scrutinizing calligraphy as a form of aesthetic-object-cum-public-message that connotes more profound meanings pertinent to the city and city life, the new methodology will thereby illuminate how calligraphy has been transformed from a literati-oriented, rarefied form of art with a restricted audience into a more accessible form of visual culture that reaches wider audiences.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHong Kong and online
Media of outputOnline
Size310cm x 650cm
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese calligraphy
  • Site-specific Performance of Calligraphy
  • Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong art
  • calligraphic materiality and multimodality
  • Chinese art
  • Chinese art history
  • Performance Art
  • Modes of Expression and Representation in Chinese Calligraphy
  • linguistic landscapes

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Calligraphic Materiality and Multimodality: Modes of Expression and Representation in Site-specific Performance of Calligraphy at Sha Tin Town Hall, Hong Kong: Delight through the Eye and Childlike Heart'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this