Yunn Pann will be in the Paint Studio demonstrating Chinese brushwork on November 21 and 22 and November 28 and 29.
Hilary Gibson: As a calligrapher, what is it about ink and the materials of calligraphy that intrigue you?
Yunn Pann: The traditional media is really simple—black ink made of soot and glue, traditional paper that’s been made the same way for thousands of years, brushes.... It’s very simple and I think that’s what attracts me to it. It allows for the direct use of energy. Your movements become very important and there is a great level of interaction between your body and the materials. Some think of it as the words dancing from the ink, or think of using the brush like dancing with a partner.
How do I describe it? Once a student observed how I used my whole body in the hook at the end of a down stroke—how I stored the energy and released it in the movement. The skills [in calligraphy] are so vast! Some teachers focus on the skills with a brush, which is very important, but that is only one small part of it. Over thousands of years, philosophy and poetry have had a great influence on Chinese calligraphy. It is the natural combination of the two—you can say so much with one character. The simplicity is what makes it interesting.
HG: What will your demonstration in the studio look like?
YP: In the past at the museum, I have worked with people creating calligraphy with large brushes—3 1/2 inch wall paint brushes—and news print. It makes it easy for people to concentrate and start to get into the mind-body link that is so important to calligraphy. This time I’m thinking I will do some simple movements with people. When I get ready to do calligraphy I do these movements—they are a little like tai chi—very simple movements that the audience can do as well. I hope to bring in different media for the audience to see—large prints and videos of how other calligraphers move.
HG: What do you do when you’re not creating art?
YP: Other than doing calligraphy, I also teach Chinese language for a living. I also teach a very small class that is a blend of philosophy and calligraphy. I do a lot of movements and meditation during the day. I don’t meditate in a way that watches the breath, but instead in a way that observes very subtle movements within the body—I suspect it’s the movement of chi, of subtle body energy. I also do lots of reading. There are so many books on the old masters of calligraphy now! I read books showing their work so that I can “read” through each stroke and understand how they made that mark. Often I trace over the characters to see how they did it.
HG: What is your biggest source of inspiration?
I think the intricate movements of the body inspire me. How you press down onto the paper and move. People ask me sometimes, ‘who is your teacher?’ and I think about it and truly I think it is this meditation practice. It taught me to hold myself correctly! Both in calligraphy and in life! I’ve been doing it for 40 or 50 years and it’s made calligraphy so much more engaging and interesting to me!
Yunn Pann is a Shanghai-born artist, writer, and instructor. She is known for her fascinating brushstrokes and her energetic teaching style. Pann currently resides in Boulder, Colorado.
The Paint Studio is sponsored by The R&J Newman Family Foundation.