China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper will investigate visual art work created by contemporary poets with regard to their use of Chinese characters, landscape, and abstraction, three approaches to visualizing their literary sensibilities.
Generally, the development of Chinese poets trying their hand at visual art is more than a case of poets’ attempt to create commodifiable work, though it is that as well. In important ways, it is also a kind of reinvigoration through reconnection of expressive word and image, something which of course enjoys a long history in China. In this context, the Chinese character has played a starring role. From the “New Ink” movement with important works such as Gu Wenda’s Lost Dynasties Series (1985-87), to Xu Bing “Book from the Sky” (1987-1991), artists have refigured the Chinese characters in novel ways but also connected to China’s cultural heritage. At the same time, fully asemic abstraction is a key consideration in the renewal of Chinese arts and letters at the end of the 1970s, when departure from socialist-realist models was led by visual artists and art critics such as Wu Guanzhong (“On Abstract Beauty,” 1980) and coterminous developments in poetry led by Bei Dao and Misty poets. Finally, and throughout the contemporary period, landscape has been important both as ekphrastic mode of poetic composition, and as visual art. These three forms are among those chosen by poets as they enter the visual creative sphere, all the while bringing with them their poetic “state.”