Calligraphy is akin to wine appreciation. Vintage means quality. S.H. Ho College has been showcasing 30 calligraphy works and seal carvings of the renowned Chinese calligrapher and seal engraver Prof. Li Gangtian (left) since February. Li has been in the ink world for almost six decades. Viewing his work was like taking a stroll in a garden of calligraphy.
The exhibition showcases his calligraphy works in oracle bone, seal, clerical, regular and running scripts. His seal carvings include Ink Play and A Pure Heart in a Jade Vase. Seal engraving is an art that straddles the script’s simplicity and the artist’s engraving skills. The slender, balanced and round seal character ‘ink’ impressed me with its naturalness. The exhibition displays works he engraved at the age of 65. It’s no small achievement to engrave the seal characters in even thickness and clear lines.
Due to his father’s work in cultural relics, Li had access to bricks and tiles from the Qin and Han dynasties during his childhood. His passion for calligraphy and seal engraving was ignited at an early age. Besides borrowing calligraphy samples for practice, he also exposed himself to diverse scripts like the stone inscriptions from the Northern Wei dynasty and the seal script in the Qing dynasty. As time passed, the scripts and strokes of various schools cemented in his mind. ‘Instead of pursuing fame, we should embrace calligraphy leisurely and wholeheartedly to appreciate the depth of Chinese culture,’ said Li.
I admire the vigour and antiqueness of Li’s calligraphy. He mentioned that the spirit of Chinese calligraphy, however, had moved from the ‘Age of Study Room’ (for conveying virtuous values) to the ‘Age of Gallery’ (for the sake of experimenting with art forms). ‘Calligraphy is sometimes performed as dance or music. But when calligraphy becomes a behavioural art, when form takes precedence over meaning, how can it still cleanse the soul?’
The Chinese Calligraphy and Seal Carving Exhibition is held until 11 October at the gallery on the ground floor of Chan Chun Ha Hall, S.H. Ho College. Admission free. Enquiries: email@example.com.
This article was originally published in No. 539, Newsletter in Jun 2019.