Weihe’s pen-strokes echo and reflect the brushstrokes of Bada Shanren’s art, which themselves are refractions of the variegated shades of black with which Shanren paints the natural world; lustrous and salubrious sable, elegant ebony, resplendent with kaleidoscope shades of darkness, smudges of black ink which echo the myriad of stars in the night sky, or the violet vibrations of a gold-fish in sunlight dappled water which represent the night as it would be if it was swimming through water. Black and white is often seen as such a monochrome way of presenting the world, yet as Shanren’s master teaches him, black itself is replete with innumerable shades and colours.
Bada Shanren’s art was abstract hundreds of years the concept was popularized in the West and imbued with symbolism. As his master taught him, it is not the image which i is important, but what the images represents to the artist; art should be nothing less than the representation of the artist’s soul on paper and for Shanren this was a mixture of wistfulness and wonder with a world which he was wearied by, yet loathe to leave.
“How can it be that, from this dismal sky, this bitter world can suddenly show us that we love it, in spite of everything; and in spite of everything it will be hard to take our leave of it?”
And so Shanren’s artistic vocation is to capture the inner essence of the world, the ephemeral echoes of beauty which his eye beholds and which he attempts to recreate via the broad strokes of his paint-brush. So Shanren, like all great artists, was able to depict the world as it had never been seen before, his attempts at depicting the movement of water is transformed into a catfish, two spiders whose invisible web-weaving means they are doomed to forever be apart, the distillation of light through an open door as the moon gently rises. Shanren’s art represents nothing less than the joyful exuberance which he feels about life, about the world and, for Shanren, the innumerable moments of beauty which make up his days;
“One evening he went into the pine forest alone. The mountain peaks were glowing in the evening light. It appeared as if a giant had carved them with a huge knife. The flat rocks looked so clean, as if they had been washed. The stream snaked its way upwards,ending in a mere silver thread…..the light and pines and stream were there for him alone, and in his happiness Xuege forgot his exhaustion and sorrow, and his heart became as light as a feather.”