Rights infringement, 2013 (detail)
Rippling, 2012
Common facts, 1968
Dream of splendor, 2019
Lyrics of songs by Roman Tam in small regular script, 2003
Poem in seal script, not dated
Frog bun lum 98, 1998
Verse by Monk Hongyi in clerical script, 2003
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The Melodious Notes of Calligraphy

The Chinese word for “calligraphy” comprises two characters “shu fa”, with shu meaning written words and fa implying the methods and principles of writing calligraphy. For generations, accomplished calligraphers were able to master the rules and principles of writing in pursuit of distinctive aesthetics, shaping calligraphy into a unique and irreplaceable genre of art.

City Rhymes: The Melodious Notes of Calligraphy features over seventy artworks by Hong Kong artists from the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. By exploring the interplay among calligraphy, prose and poetry, dance, painting and music, this exhibition offers visitors a visual opportunity to better understand calligraphic works regardless of cultural background and knowledge of the subject.

Chinese characters started as pictographs. During the Shang dynasty (1766–047 BC), oracle bone script was invented as graphic symbols that convey meanings through their pictorial resemblance to physical objects and gradually developed into a fusion of pictures and symbols.

Small seal script was the official style used across China after Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi unified the country (Qin dynasty, 221–206 BC). It was a simplification of the large seal script with the removal of overly intricate or pictographic strokes, resulting in a rigorous and slender form. Small seal script marked a significant turning point in the history of Chinese scripts, with the transition from a pictographic to a symbolic system.

Regular script emerged in the late Han dynasty. It is called kai shu in Chinese, with kai meaning a standard or model. Writing regular script is governed by rigorous rules and principles from stroke execution and brush modelling to character composition. To this day, regular script remains the most prevalent style of Chinese calligraphy.

Calligraphy is the art of imagery that finds expression in all things. During the Shang dynasty, oracle bone script was invented as graphic symbols that convey meanings through their pictorial resemblance to physical objects and gradually developed into a fusion of pictures and symbols. For its richness in lines, forms, and visual qualities, the art of calligraphy has been a great source of inspiration for artists of all mediums. By blurring the boundaries between painting and calligraphy, these experiments have introduced new styles and perspectives to calligraphy and opened vast possibilities for the interaction between the two art forms.

Text Hong Kong Museum of Art / Photos Martin Wray