My feelings regarding the art of the Far Middle East have never been straightforward. Thematically repetitive, with little stylistic variation, i used to find it less interesting than Western art. For a long time, I perceived calligraphy as a purely ornamental art, no doubt as its semantic meaning were hidden to me. Nevertheless, its aesthetic purity has fascinated me from early on, perhaps owing to the fact that I am living in a multi-media era. Having spent the past few years in China, I have had a better opportunity to study calligraphic works, allowing me subtle differentiation. Today, I consider calligraphy one of the most intriguing expressions of Far Eastern art. Much more than the sheets densely covered with meticulously arranged columns of characters, I admire those pieces in which the text ends somewhere in the middle of the paper, while ta remaining space is left empty, possibly with the exception of the seal mark. However, I find massive solitary characters particularly appealing. I appreciate them for the way the dots, lines and ink splashes are set down on the writing surface. Their formal arrangement closely resemble the compositions in Chinese and Japanese landscape painting, where images are similarly made up of individual elements, themes and scenes, at times even in serial form. With little exaggeration, I might say that what I find most interesting in these works is the empty space that lies in between the various inscriptions. The enlargement of a particular character seems to strip it of it semantic function; it no longer acts as a character, becoming instead a mere ink splash, a shape, imbued with an emotional charge of intensity akin to that of the compositions, shapes and colours in the paintings by Antoni Tapies, Alberto Burri or Cy Twombly.

Foe a long time, I viewed the dynamic asymmetry of compositions in calligraphic sheets and their proclivity to almost exclusively assume abstract qualities as two separate facets, because these two facets usually appear separately. It was only after I visited Shanghai Museum´s Gallery of Chinese Calligraphy that I was struck by the possibility that these two elements could be combined. Then, calligraphy became my major theme of interest, as I realized that these features – asymmetry in the compositions and their tendency toward abstraction – were in fact characteristic of my own concurrent photographic endeavours. Gradually relinquishing all subjective representation of reality, my photographs merely allure the reality, concerning on the aspects of a picture´s composition and its quality of light.

Traditionally, calligraphy is an art executed in the form of black-ink painting on light paper or silk grounds. Considering that the series of photographs on exhibition is a kind of variation on calligraphy, I decided to use colour medium instead. I was enchanted by the rich, virtually photographic jet black of the characters, the wealth of grey hues, the broad range of earthy colours and the striking shade of signal-colour red. This is actually the very first time that I have used exclusively colour in my pictures, but I do so with the exclusion of light modelling, retaining in my Calligraphy series the two-dimensionality inherent to calligraphic works.

Though I have been living and working in China for last five years, I am not familiar with the Chinese language, so that I devoted my attention to creating images. One day I showed my photographic prints to a Chinese friend of mine, asking him to translate the characters for me. it was then that I became aware that the pictorial series which I had made as a formal etude was endowed not only with visual and semantic contents, but with a much more general meaning as well. Most of my pictures have been taken around old Shanghai´s blocks of houses, in places where life is presented as it really is, rather than shown on television or the internet.


Milan Pitlach

June 2008