Considerations …



I know, it is the “single brush stroke” and not the “final brush stroke” of which the monk   Shitao (Bitter pumpkin) speaks in his musings on painting (China, circa 1710). A text that made a deep impression on me. But there is no stopping it, my brain always transforms everything in its own way.  A quality when it comes to creativity but a weakness for knowledge. In any event, I was initiated almost from the cradle by my grandfather, a painter of water colours, to an understanding of
the nature of a brush, from its tip to its reservoir.

My architecture studies (at the time still, and for a long time to come, incorporated within fine arts education) had taught me the subtle art of wash painting, or the art of playing with the liquid on the sheet of paper. But nothing had prepared me for using a brush to paint a motif on the glazed surface of an enamelled ceramic tile. The brush stroke is revealed in its unadulterated entirety, more even than in calligraphy when the paper absorbs a part of the stroke, something ceramic does not do.   So everything is cruelly legible. Cruelly, because I did not like what was revealed. I had seen very well how writing is the reflection of the soul, and so this was true of this kind of writing too. Which finally meant that I did not like my soul! An intolerable conclusion that was followed by a solitary and committed endeavour to accept my brush stroke. Solitary, as there are some admissions so humiliating that it is impossible to talk about them. Ultimately, I came to venerate my brushes and to care for them with the love of an artisan. Above all, this secret search became a guiding thread in my production of hand-painted tiles.  The play of downstrokes and upstrokes but also of the dense and the parsimonious are the bases, and paradoxically even, the use of the wash technique when I am seeking the contrast of a full uniform surface without the least brush effect.   It is not really the precepts of the monk Shitao that accompanied me in this long endeavour, as each time I re-read them I realise that I have almost totally forgotten them. It is rather a kind of presence behind my shoulder when I am working with my brush, inexplicable but strangely real.

Excerpt from “The final brush stroke” booklet 5 of the book
“ By Agnès Emery / Par Agnès Emery”