Irony, play and compassion

Quickness and wit in calligraphy

These large compositions by ZHENG Fu 鄭簠 (1622-1693) offer a playful, lush presentation of calligraphy. To begin with, the materials are fine – lustrous ink, and large pieces of good paper. One is prepared for a performance. The game is set in motion by the guiding lines that gird the characters. Into these cells is poured a dancing line that can be amply strong or suddenly withdrawn. This is work of confidence, skill and wry bravura.

A slight 'flip' at the finish of each character's brushwork provides a leitmotif. This lends a playful tone as well a formal continuity. The characters are more or less 'flat' or perhaps can be felt as being in bas-relief. This comes in part from the use of the older li script (隸書 ), inflected by the even older seal script. Having grounded the work in such formal regularities, Zheng finds ample space for invention in the form of each character, often surprising against expected type, and taking particular pleasure in mixing apparent primitiveness with knowing sophistication derived from knowledge of ancient forms.

ZHENG Fu 鄭簠 (1622-1693)
Calligraphy in li script (dated 1691)
Mounted (four pieces) ink on paper
102.8 × 36cm (each)
Private collection