The Living Quality

Posted on Oct 16, 2014 in Discover


One of the highest qualities in art is the living quality in the work itself.  It is the life force, the spirit in all good art. Traditional Chinese painters highly praise this particular quality. They call it “氣韻生動 (Chi Yun Sheng Dong). ”

“Chi” 氣 is energy. It is the foundation of all existence in ancient Chinese philosophy. In modern terms it is roughly equivalent to “energy.” We know the universe is made of energy in various forms; even matter is a form of energy.

This chi runs through everything to form the stars and heavenly bodies. It also runs through the human body and can be tuned up from time to time by practicing chi gong—a kind of meditation exercise to circulate the chi. In painting, chi is the force and momentum.

“Yun” 韻 is rhythm. In ancient China, many great painters were also great poets. In their works there was rhythm like music. The arrangement of forms and the placement of bright and dark, dense and sparse, far and near, fullness and empty space must be full of yun, the melodious manifestation of energy.

“Sheng (life) Dong (movement)” 生動 is liveliness. Great Chinese painters stress the importance of capturing the “spirit” of the object they depict.

“A Fluffy Cat”—The original piece is sold.
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