Dong Yang-zhi was born in Shanghai in 1942. She came to Taiwan via Hong Kong at age 10. Dong was introduced to calligraphy by her father with “The Story of Ms. Ma Who Became a Goddess” written by calligraphy master Yen Cheng-ching, and practiced the works of Wang Hsi-chi and Wen Cheng-ming. The young girl practiced writing 200 words using a small calligraphy brush and 100 words using a big one every day—a practice that continued throughout senior high school. As a high school student, she studied under famous calligrapher Chang Ku-nien. As she enrolled at the Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Normal University, she started receiving instructions from Fu Shen, Chang Lung-yen, Ting Nien-hsian, and Tai Ching-nung, in addition to studying Han clerical scripts and the woks of the four great calligraphers of the Song Dynasty, Su Shi, Huang Ting-chien, Mi Fu and Tsai Hsiang. Upon college graduation, she pursued further studies in the United States and obtained an MFA degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1970.
Dong Yang-zhi concentrated on oil painting and pottery at the UMAA. She also tried to introduce the theory and composition methods of the west art to traditional Chinese painting. As she completed the program, she stayed on in New York working as a graphic designer for a magazine and bagged the graphic design prize from a national creative design exhibition. In the 1970s, she developed a creative style using short classic Chinese literature sentences as the visual foundation of her works. She was awarded the Fourth Lion Fine Arts Award in 1994, and has since then devoted herself even more to creating and teaching calligraphy. She continues to find new expressions of calligraphy art until today.
“Know the Right yet Speak Nothing Against the Wrong” comes from Chapter Twenty Eighth of Daodejing written by Laozi, a philosopher of ancient China. The author sees calligraphy as a form of painting. She often takes composition, which for her must conform to the essence of the text, as the top priority during the creative process. In this artwork, changing ink colors and a dynamic structure makes the text look so vivid that it seems ready to jump off the paper. Such is a revisualization of words as signs.
Chinese calligraphy grew into a full-fledged, independent art category in the Han Dynasty and spread out in the pan cultural Chinese regions in East Asia at later time. As people’s lifestyles and ways of communications change drastically, plus the fact that art in contemporary times become more diverse both in form and content, this unique oriental art is however constantly challenged in the present day. It struggles against conventions while having to deal with the issue of “modernity” in art. In particular, in Taiwan, calligraphy has been more or less left behind as other types of art are being taught, promoted, presented or discussed. Thus, those who are ambitious enough to axe a new path for calligraphy must take urgent actions to revise its set of aesthetic values to fit the contemporary times.
Dong Yang-zhi has dedicated herself to exploring the “artness” of modern calligraphy since the 1970s. She sticks to one essential rule, “write meaningfully,” and applies the composition methods and art theory of the west to her works of art. She composes her pictures with thick powerful strokes, using succinct, strong sentences and super-sized writing paper to show her understanding of and feelings for words. This has resulted in an expressive, solid style of hers. Over the last few years, she has tried to find new ways for calligraphy to be incorporated with modern art and make it a daily-life art. Successful results have been achieved as she explores space, body movement, music, rhythms, and technology.
|English title：||Know the Right yet Speak Nothing Against the Wrong|
|Medium / Classification：||ink painting and calligraphy|
|Collection Unit：||Collection of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum|
|Contact method for authorization：||
Taipei Fine Arts Museum
|Related Exhibition：||"The Pioneers" of Taiwanese Artists, 1941-1950|