Chinese Calligraphy Biennial 2008, Beijing

Driving to the Ku Art Center at the China Base Ku Art Center

The first international Chinese Biennial, the inaugural exhibition of Chinese character spatial art derived from hanzi, traditional Chinese writing, will be on display at the Ku Art Center, China Base in Beijing from Saturday, August 2, 2008 through September 6, 2008.

Gathering works by 51 international artists for this exhibition of spatialized hanzi alongside dimensional works inspired by it, the exhibition underscores the spatial structure of Chinese characters, an under recognized form of sculptural practice, with a category newly termed “hanzi spatialized Chinese character art.”   More information is available at

Joyce Cutler-Shaw, The Dimensional Alphabet of Bones (Installation), 2008, Ku Art Center Joyce Cutler-Shaw, The Dimensional Alphabet of Bones (Detail), Ku Art Center

The Dimensional Alphabet of Bones, by Joyce Cutler-Shaw, consists of twenty six pairs of hand carved wood characters with hand applied silver leaf surface, 2003-2008.  Overall installation dimensions are 12 inches by 180 inches.


Language images have been a continuous and important part of my artwork with the inspiration of Hanzi, which I admire because it is writing, drawing and painting all at once.  An additional virtue of Hanzi is that it can be read for its visual beauty as well as for its linguistic meaning.

Hanzi was an important influence on my Alphabet of Bones, an original calligraphy composed of anatomically accurate drawings of the hollow leg bones of the Columbia Livia, or messenger pigeon.  My original drawing studies of bones of the pigeon resembled Hanzi, the characters of which are precisely bone shaped.  I studied with a Chinese calligrapher to effectively form the characters for the digitized Alphabet of Bones, a unique copyrighted font, that has twenty-six double characters conceived as a visual dance.  Each character has an alphabetic English language equivalent.  The Alphabet of Bones also represents a private symbolic code, similar to the pictographic nature of hieroglyphics, in which each character, or sign, has a cluster of referents.  With digitization, English, or Latin based language, texts and poems can be printed out in The Alphabet of Bones.  At the surface level, texts, written in this alphabet, can be read as visual poems, all the more vivid in their recent three dimensional translations.