Writing to Meet Social Obligations and as Performance: A Case Study of the Creative Circumstances of Wang Duo’s Calligraphy (Xue Long Chun)

2014-09-24

Writing to Meet Social Obligations and as Performance: A Case Study of the Creative Circumstances of Wang Duo’s Calligraphy

Xue, Longchun
Associate professor, Nanjing Arts Institute


Among Wang Duo’s extant calligraphies, almost half were made to fulfill social obligations. Wang’s attitude towards writing that is meant to satisfy social obligations was complex. On the one hand, he was willing to write calligraphy for financial gain and to expand and maintain his social network; on the other, he was sometimes annoyed at the pressure to deliver work. To preserve the quality of his output, he would postpone deliveries or refuse commissions.

On occasion, Wang Duo brushed calligraphy at social gatherings, where the presence of an audience created an atmosphere of keen anticipation and heightened his urge to perform. Wang possessed a keen sense of drama that made his energetic performances on these occasions memorable. Especially at gatherings like these, he made certain to include strong contrasts among the elements of his work to make a vivid visual impression on his expectant audience.

The phrase “artworks of social obligation” is often understood to refer to careless work executed in haste. These works are contrasted to those done for self-amusement or as personal gifts, circumstances customarily taken to be optimum for the production of good quality work. The body of Wang Duo’s output, however, includes many brilliant pieces that were made to meet social obligations. This suggests that our presumption of a direct relationship between artworks of social obligation and the quality of such works should be reconsidered.

 

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