The monumental scroll stretches nearly 60 yards around the Bartels Gallery in the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art – an immersive calligraphy experience by Tong Yang-Tze, one of Taiwan’s foremost calligraphers working today. The scroll’s subject – and title – is “Immortal at the River,” referencing a poem by 16th century Chinese poet Yang Shen.
The exhibition, which opened Feb. 1 and can be viewed online, was curated by An-yi Pan, associate professor of the history of art and visual studies in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Johnson.
"Tong has dedicated her life to studying and promoting calligraphy in contemporary society,” Pan said. “Her art affirms her status as a major calligraphic artist.”
“It is awe-inspiring to experience this work as it winds through the gallery,” Avril said. “But even through images on the museum’s website, you really see the power of Tong’s brushwork and creative energy.”
As the 2020 Wong Chai Lok Calligraphy Fellow at Cornell, Tong spoke about her work remotely from Taiwan on March 8 to an audience at the Johnson. A performance of one of her crossover works was presented as part of Locally Grown Dance 2020, and a related student dance performance was held at the Johnson, both choreographed by Jumay Chu, senior lecturer in performing and media arts in A&S.
Over a career spanning four decades, Tong has received critical acclaim for her large-scale, unrestrained cursive script, and her works have appeared in more than 60 exhibitions worldwide. She received a degree in fine arts from National Taiwan Normal University before pursuing further visual art study in the United States.
After returning to Taiwan, her experimental approach fused Western theories of painting with the traditional lines and brushstrokes that form the foundation of Chinese calligraphy. In recent years, the artist has promoted the ancient art of Chinese script in experimental ways that cross disciplines of design, visual art, digital media and performance to resonate in the modern world.
The exhibition, forthcoming publication and programs are made possible by major funding from the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and from a gift endowed in memory of Elizabeth Miller Francis ’47.
Additional support is provided by the Wong Chai Lok Calligraphy Fund, the Cornell Council for the Arts, the East Asia Program, the Department of Performing and Media Arts, and the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts.