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Merging modern calligrapher, painter and poet

BEFORE he was 18, Liu Qi had never painted on rice paper, although he learned calligraphy and painting at an early age.

"My family wasn't rich enough to satisfy the hobby of a little by," says Liu, 49, a famous calligrapher.

"It was at a friend's home that I first used rice paper and the effect was completely different from that on the newspaper and other paper I had used," says Liu, winner of several national awards for calligraphy.

Nowadays, Liu "consumes" countless pieces of rice, but his recollection that it was once precious to him sometimes colors his dreams.

"But that memory is also a driving force, since I would treasure every opportunity to practice on rice paper," he says.

Liu has developed his own style of calligraphy.

His recent solo exhibition of paintings and calligraphy at the Peninsular Art Center drew locals and expats.

Based on his many years of calligraphy, Liu takes a different approach to traditional ink-wash painting.

Many people regard Chinese calligraphy as both writing and painting.

"I was amazed by the way Liu painted those beautiful symbols, one after another without hesitation," said Carlos Irigaray, consul general of Uruguay in Shanghai, at the opening of Liu's exhibition. "His stroke was graceful and firm. The whole thing looked marvellously balanced, the symbols and spaces vibrating in perfect harmony."

Liu merges the curves and lines of calligraphy with his paintings in a way that seems spontaneous and lyric.

"I taught myself the painting style," says Liu. "I thought the curves and lines in calligraphy are part of the beauty in my paintings. I get bored to see traditional ink-wash paintings drawn in the same pattern."

Liu combines calligrapher, painter and poet.

"Perhaps that's why some foreigners are keen on my works," he says. "They can sense the somber Oriental flavor through the Eastern intellectual and philosophical approach."

Liu's idol is poet-scholar Su Dongpo from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), and created several paintings related to Su's works and stories about him.

For example, Su naturally preferred high-quality tea but was often short of funds. So, he exchanged a goose for his tea.

Liu creates this humorous scenario and combines it with a short poem he himself wrote.

"I am more keen on implications of and aura that surrounds my paintings," he says. "Perhaps this approach can give our traditional ink-wash paintings new life in modern society."


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