The Realm of YI, a term developed in the traditional Chinese culture, has two aspects. One lies in one’s peaceful and leisurely state of mind; the other lies in the unrestrained, free and natural style.
Many people are scratching the surface of modern Chinese calligraphy while only a few have deep understanding and make real achievements. Among the latter, Shao Yan is one. He distinguishes himself with his unique style and technique.
Traditional calligraphy, modern calligraphy, Shuxiang in paper, Shuxiang installations and Shuxiang actions, he delves into them one by one, and then out. So uninhibited, open and versatile is his art in terms of form and concept, which saves him any possibility of being hindered in art expression and adds indefinite versatility to his works. He plays well with different forms and concepts freely, with his own way. This demonstrates truly a peaceful and leisurely state of mind.
From writing brush to medical injectori, whatever tool Shao Yan uses, the consistent aesthetic style of his art is YI.
Western aesthetic categories like grace, lofty, tragedy, comedy, beauty in ugliness, the flower of evil, etc. could well explained most aesthetic phenomena in China, except YI. One could not find YI in Western aesthetics; YI is specially generated and developed in the calligraphy and painting of Chinese literati in the past. As an aesthetic category, YI does not wither when the literati paintings and calligraphies has become a history; instead, its contemporary energy has been recognized and diffused by insightful Chinese artists. For Shao Yan, what remains unchanged for his more than twenty years’ trials in different art expressions is his LINES—lines like lighting, lines that break out in a flash, and lines with coherence and with the beginning and end corresponding with each other, extending freely and done by a wielding of the brush. Wielding brushes is like throwing punches and injecting inks brandishing swords. It reminds us of the old story of Zhang Xu, the famous Chinese calligrapher, gaining great progress in cursive script after watching Madame Gongsun brandishing her sword. We cannot recognize every word of these Shuxiang works, thus their meanings of the words could not be obtained, but we could still feel the artistic conception of calligraphyii flowing through these works.
?YI, and what YI means to Shao Yan, need further and more detailed illustrations. The emptiness, spirit, void, tranquility, obliviousness of self, simplicity, trance, detachment, nature and all other features in Shao Yan’s art are all components of YI, and the sum total of them, is what I call the unrestrained, free and natural style.