Chinese Calligrapher

The artist’s brush captivated the audience as it moved over the suan paper to create thin lines, long brush strokes and seemingly formless blobs. As the audience crowded around the small table, the individual strokes all came together to form two prawns, or shrimp. The artist, Jennifer Fan ’09, stood back and said, “Here it is! See? Isn’t it very easy?” Although Fan might have thought the painting was a small feat, her product amazed the audience around her. Missy Wingard ’09 said, “I think that it was really interesting to see how quickly she could put together something so beautiful. It shows how much effort and hard work she has put into it that she can make something that beautiful with ease.” Fan painted the prawns at the opening reception of “Ink Song,” an exhibition of her Chinese brush paintings that will run from April 25 through the end of Spring Term in the McLean Gallery. Fan said, “I hoped to share the beauty of Chinese art and culture with the rest of PA. A lot of my favorite works went onto the exhibit.” Fan’s favorite work, “Devils,” was among those included in the exhibition. She said, “I like how the monkeys are arranged, and they look really life-like. The monkey at the far right looks like he’s breaking out of the frame of the picture.” Fan first started painting at eight years old. At her first Chinese painting lesson, she painted “Bamboo in a Snow Storm” in ten minutes. She said, “I quickly fell in love with it because it was really really simple. As I drew on, I realized that Chinese painting is actually a mixture of patience, organization, improvisation and lots and lots of practice.” Fan has been taking Chinese painting lessons ever since. Her teacher, Master Lam, is a well-known Chinese painter who has studied under a variety of prestigious teachers. Stephanie Yu ’09 said, “Her teacher is really famous—he’s like the Van Gogh of Chinese painting.” Once, as Fan painted bamboo leaves, Master Lam asked her, “Do you know why some of the bamboo leaves are longer, some shorter, and some are just as small as dots?” Fan finally guessed that the leaves must be represented in different angles to create an accurate representation, rather than a “flat and unbalanced” painting. She said, “From this I learned that we can not come to a conclusion by merely looking at things, but we have to look at them in different perspectives.” At the opening reception for the Andover exhibition, Fan discussed the art of Chinese painting and how it differs from western painting. She said, “Because of the paper’s high absorbency, Chinese painting, unlike western painting, allows us no chance for correction.” Unlike western painters, when Chinese painters accidentally drop ink on a painting, they cannot simply cover it up with other colors. Fan said, “Therefore, to achieve a beautiful piece or painting, lots and lots and lots of practice is required.” Chinese painting is also characterized by its use of black ink and very little color. Fan said, “Chinese painting emphasizes the balance between black and white. Very often, black spaces on a piece of paper provide a kind of ‘rhythm’ to the painting. Too much color makes the painting look ostentatious.” Fan’s painting became something more serious than a simple hobby with the publication of “Ink Song,” a book of her best paintings. The book was published for an exhibition in Hong Kong. Chinese painting has become an important part of Fan’s life, although Andover’s demanding schedule allows her very little time to practice. Inspired by her mood, Fan paints at her leisure, choosing the good ones afterwards. She said, “I like how Chinese painting calms me down. Whenever I feel stressed or angry, it always makes me feel better.”