Calligraphy and drunkenness

Maaya Wakasugi

24th June, 2023

It happened a few days ago in my studio, just before I started my last calligraphy class of the season. My students brought champagne and we all toasted the occasion. I don't usually drink when I'm writing, but exceptionally I let myself be tempted by a glass. It was hot and humid at the time, and the freshness of the crystalline beverage was a delight. It was then that I remembered the work of Wang Xizhi.

Produced in 353, the Preface to the Collection of the Orchid Pavilion is the best-known text in the history of calligraphy. According to one interpretation, this master of calligraphy wrote the poem that would become one of the most famous in the field during a very special festivity. One day, when he invited family and friends, he organised a meandering stream party during which the participants, seated on the banks of a stream, had to compose a poem before a cup of rice alcohol reached them.
The production certainly merited a few technical corrections in line with the conventions of the time, but Wang Xizhy never considered that he had equalled the raw harmony of his initial work. It is the version of The Master in a drunken stupor that has come down to us and is considered to be his major work. I would have loved to have seen him achieve this feat in such a state.

Many artists draw inspiration from the effects of alcohol, and photos of musicians drinking from the neck of a whisky bottle have always made a strong impression on me. I can understand the creativity and daring that whisky can inspire. Although I don't feel the need to drink to write, since I draw my inspiration from the sobriety of everyday life, I do appreciate the magic of intoxication, as well as the drinks I indulge in after a piece of work or during a vernissage. 

The ancient spelling of "alcohol" represents the shape of a jar. Today, I've imagined a wine barrel for my work. On this day of the solstice, I wonder if I won't soon be organising an event based on drunken calligraphy.

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Maaya Wakasugi

Calligraphy artist

Born in 1977 in Okayama, Japan. Lives in Bordeaux. Maaya Wakasugi was born in 1977, in the province of Okayama. At the age of 6 he began calligraphy, at 17 he held his first exhibition. In 2001, he graduated from the prestigious DAITO BUNKA Faculty of Arts and developed a personal style based on the so-called "ancient characters". Then, his choice of motifs that he liberates from the classical style, as well as the quality of his artistic expression, bring him a notoriety in Japan as well as abroad - exhibitions at NY ART EXPO (New York), at NEXT STEP BIENNALE (Paris), realization of a performance at MoMA. In January 2017 he calligraphed the title "Onna Jōshu Naotora" of the new historical fiction of the national television channel NHK. In 2018 he is the "Guest Artist of the Summer" by the municipality of Andernos-les-Bain. In 2019 he was chosen to calligraph the name of the new Japanese era "REIWA" on the official website of Yahoo! For the past three years he has been training adults from the PHILOMATHIQUE de Bordeaux, as well as primary and secondary school students from the region, in calligraphy workshops, the most recent of which took place at the DON BOSCO Institute in Gradignan.