Monday, February 9, 2015

Capturing Spring (Return to Shodo)

It was so wonderful to return to shodo class this morning.  It had been almost 3 months since the last time I was there.  I returned to the poetic world of kanji, to the voices of the middle-aged Japanese women speaking almost intelligibly, to the calm focus of harnessing movement on the page.  Throughout the class, the other members–far more regular and advanced than I–worked with Sensei on long pieces with varied brushstrokes, and tones.  They know how to mix ink in different ways, they know how to play with time and space on the page.  And all in the service of the text they are copying.  It seemed to be a different sort of class going on behind me (I always sit in front), almost more like a masterclass with everyone absorbed in one another's works.  The time was mixed with silences and explanations, with paper attached to the magnetic board in front, and on the long desks behind me, and at one point, even an explanation including the singing of a song.

I began class by occupying myself with a lesson I had studied several months ago.  I chose "poet."  The combination of straight and arched lines attracted me to it.  It seemed like an appropriately aesthetically pleasing depiction.  And once again I was drawn into the world of recreating movement from stasis.  It's incredible how lines on a page incite the imagination to understand the movement that created them, or even their own intrinsic movement.  I think it might be the process of acquiring the brush as a part of my body.  How does it contact the page, how does the arm draw it across?  Does it turn, go straight, double back on itself?  What is its volition?  

I studied the two characters of the example Sensei had drawn.

"shi" meaning "poetry"

"jin" meaning "person"
The spacing of the horizontal lines between the right and left parts in the top figure was difficult to capture.  And each of the lines in the bottom figure presented something to contemplate.  It's in these two lines, and lines of their sort, that I search for volition; how quickly the swoop downward, at what angle throughout the motion, the stop in the one on the right, the nature of the release of the brush for both.

I managed to do one to at least partial satisfaction and sensei approved and gave me another–"spring breeze."  Looking back at the one full example that I completed in that second hour of class, I think I was doing ok.  But at the time, I became obsessed with the short horizontal lines of the first figure and how those interacted with the swooping lines that intersect them.

"spring breeze" "haru kaze"
and horizontal lines
I found myself becoming blinded in the slight upward rise that they take.  I became dizzy and disoriented in the vertical and horizontal dimensions, like what I imagine happens to air pilots in certain foggy weather.  I kept working and working, realizing that I was getting nowhere.  I the end of class, I finally asked Sensei for help and she guided my hand through several different strokes.  I've put it away until next time.  Maybe spring breezes just aren't ready, yet.

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