Quail Creek Editions

Adoration of Characters

Lei Cai   |  perfect bound (70 pages)   |  $30
ISBN13: 978-0-578-09225-6
Cover, Adoration of Characters
Cover, Adoration of Characters
Long Distance #4, 20"x20", C-print

In this delightful little book, Lei Cai has examined Chinese calligraphy in a new way, giving it a contemporary “twist.”.  Cai’s calligraphic creations extract the forms from the calligraphy, but liberate it from its literary or narrative meanings.  The paintings cannot be “read” in a literary way, but at the same time they are not entirely divorced from the long Chinese cultural tradition that employs calligraphy as the basis for its historical narrative.  Cai has constructed (or deconstructed) the Chinese calligraphic forms and while they do not reference directly the Chinese language, they are not entirely divorced from it either; creating a visual tension that engages the viewer, particularly those who will strain to read a narrative.   In other words, Cai made the characters - using Chinese calligraphy as his inspiration but devoid of a direct literary link and not creating an alternative calligraphic language – and as a result he has created an aesthetic tool for personal expression that retains and articulates his love of the traditional “Chineseness” of calligraphy.


This approach has some precedents in American art. Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Bradley Walker  Tomlin (1899-1953) and Franz Kline (1910-1962) similarly employed calligraphy as a basis for their painting and while each drew upon the calligraphic sources in very different ways, (and painted in very different ways as well) each created an abstract language that engaged the viewer.