“Calligraphy is not primarily about line; it is about time and space.”
Born 1951, Siyi, Guangdong. Lives and works in Hong Kong
Fung Ming Chip always loved calligraphy, but after much practice he decided that in an age of ballpoint pens and keyboards, it was impossible to match the brush skills of the old masters. His response was not to abandon his chosen art but to reinvent it. Calligraphy is inseparably tied to language: without this, it is little more than abstract painting. This anchorage in Chinese-ness has helped calligraphers resist the homogenising winds of modernity, but also kept them from responding fully to change. Fung Ming Chip bridges the divide, giving calligraphy new life and meaning by digging deep into its origins. Like James Joyce in Finnegan’s Wake, he uses a standard dictionary, yet makes of it something utterly new. He experiments endlessly: breaking the connections between strokes; violating the conventional order of strokes; writing on the back of the paper to create mirror images. He “opens up” characters so their internal spaces merge with the space around them, and plays with the absorbency of traditional xuan paper, which makes initial strokes seem to float above all strokes superimposed on them. He has developed his own script styles, such as the looping, cursive “swirl script”, the scattery “bamboo script”, and the “sand script” of Departure (2010), in which ink dried to a powder is blown across characters rendered in barely inked water, adhering at random to the still-wet strokes. These scripts are used to write not only Buddhist sutras but poems with titles like Post-Marijuana and Prostitute. With a daring and freedom unheard of in traditional calligraphy, Fung Ming Chip pays true homage to its spirit.