Brush in hand, Lampo Leong carefully dips the pointed tip into a small pool of jet black ink. He quickly moves the ink-laden brush towards the dry rice-paper on the table, a thin, tan sheet held down at the edges by paperweights. A brief pause, and then Leong dashes the brush to the paper, the tip and side jumping and dancing across the sheet with intense, determined movements. As the brush reaches the end of the paper, Leong steps back, sets it down, and clasps his hands together. “This is cursive Chinese calligraphy,” he explains.
Lampo Leong describes the creative process of cursive Chinese calligraphy as “very similar to a dance or a musical performance.” He explains that “the success of marking on paper is, to a certain extent, a direct reflection of the quality of the performance while creating the piece.”
“Wild cursive calligraphy” is a millennia-old Chinese art form. “It is not a written language for the general public to write every day,” Leong notes, “but rather an expressive art form used by the artist.”
As the brush glides across the rice-paper, it seems to “actually dance on paper,” according to Leong. The artist is allowed greater manipulation with the Chinese brush because of its pointed and soft bristles, as opposed to the flat, stiff bristles of the Western brush. Energetic black strokes and the strong contrast provided by the black ink are some of the characteristics that distinguish Chinese calligraphy.
Leong has noticed a heightened interest in Chinese calligraphy in the Western world, and his work is now sought out for exhibitions and commissions as well as collected by many museums. He believes that this increased attention derives from the unique visual experience that calligraphy provides: “The viewer becomes involved while looking at the piece as if he/she is watching the brush dance across the stage—its movements, its rhythm… [like] viewing a dance performance and a painting at the same time.”
Not only does Leong create mixed-media paintings; he also assembles multimedia installations, such as calligraphy on translucent silk scrolls suspended in a space. He illuminates these suspended artworks with colored lights and video projections in order to create a three-dimensional illusion for viewers to walk through and experience on multiple levels.