Saffron de Menezes discovers spirituality in the art of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy.
Apple Yang is a Chinese born, UK based artist, choreographer and dancer. Upon meeting her I was immediately fascinated by her descriptions of her work and the way she unites various art forms with spirituality to create an experience that nourishes the whole being. Apple’s background has uniquely prepared her for the work that she brings to the world, born into a high ranking Chinese military family under the controversial ‘one child policy’ some of her earliest memories are of learning calligraphy both from her father and at boarding school. The feeling of connection and love from the universe that she found as a result of practicing this art form has had a lifelong impact that has gone on to influence her work today.
Spirituality in the art of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy is a full day workshop that introduces traditional techniques in Chinese art while nurturing a connection with the breath and emotions.
Beginning with Chinese calligraphy Apple encouraged each participant to choose a word that held significance and demonstrated how each one should be written. The group then practiced writing our own and each other’s words, synchronising the movement of the painting with the breath as we learnt traditional calligraphy techniques. Learning to understand the energy and personality of the brushes, inks and papers became an integral part of the process, allowing us to see how our own energy interacted with these tools to produce a unique end result.
‘The calligraphy is important because we are connecting with breath but also visually making an impact on a different level,’ explains Apple, ‘it is a useful way to lead students into the power of the energy field so that you can see, taste and feel the language and develop the confidence to move forward.’
Following the calligraphy, the group progressed on to painting bamboo. This brought in different techniques and introduced the concept of connecting with the energy and character of the subject matter, an idea that remained central as we progressed onto painting water, mountains, bluebells and blossom flowers.
‘Inviting in and absorbing the energy of the natural objects in order to paint them facilitates a connection with the divine’ explains Apple, ‘Asian culture teaches that nature is god therefore observing and reflecting on the energy flow of natural objects draws us closer to universal consciousness. To paint bamboo for example we must connect with and understand its resilience and strength as well as the softness it embodies, the yin and yang quality of its nature.’
‘In addition, the brushes made from wolf hair bring a very different dynamic than ordinary western brushes and, when combined with the inks and paper, can lead us on an emotional journey. At the same time working together so closely allows us to stimulate that creative energy as a group. It’s a very intense process with the concentration so high, working to establish the pace of the breath creates a very peaceful field’
In addition to developing a greater understanding of the subjects of the paintings, we as artists are afforded a new level of understanding of our own feelings. Using the paintings to connect us directly with our emotional selves can be very profound. During the workshop it was clear that although we were all using the same techniques we all did so in very different ways, resulting in very different paintings from each participant. The revelations this brings forth combined with the power of the breath and of consciously directing our energy can make painting into a powerful healing platform, not only to heal experiences in this lifetime but for healing past lives and for generational healing as well.
The healing was immediately apparent to one participant in our group who was surprised to realise towards the end of the session that she hadn’t been wearing her glasses, though she would normally have needed to for this kind of work. Although the healing effects might often be more subtle and gradual we were able to see the powerful potential of the healing power of creativity.
The session was set in the beautiful Yorkshire Centre for Wellbeing in Harrogate, run by mother and son team, Anne-Marie and James Burford who bring a diverse range of skills and experiences to their work. The centre is also home to many other fascinating workshops as well as a range of Yoga and Pilates classes.