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When we come across a mound in the wood, six feet long and three feet wide, raised in a pyramidal form by means of a spade, we become serious and something in us says: somebody lies buried here. This is architecture (建筑). — Adolf Loos
A vertical line cuts through mouth (口).
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Brunelleschi paints the Florence baptistery using a perspectival model and inserts silver leaf to reflect real clouds (云) passing overhead. The cloud is a matter of densities and thresholds. Its limit cannot be marked by contour.
Darkness (暗) is a double-split (双). The ideogram is first split vertically into sun (日) on the left and sound (音) on the right. Sound (音) is again split horizontally: on top, to stand (立); below, sun (日). Darkness (暗): sound (音) of the sun (日). Sound (音): to stand (立) on the sun (日).
Desert (漠) is negative (莫) water (氵).
Door (门) is a hinged grid.
Double (双) is again (又) and again (又).
Earth (土) spins on a potter’s wheel.
Field (田) is a unit of the grid.
Ground (地) is also (也) the earth (土).
Horizon (地平线) is a compound word: ground (地), flat (平), line (线). The vertical line that extends through center (中) reappears in flat (平) but is blocked by the horizontal axis above. This junction marks the vanishing point.
Image (画) is a reconfigured grid. Field (田) sits within an open mouth (口), its top line floating upwards. This opening is the space of the cloud (云).
The classic diamond-shaped kite is an anamorphic field (田). It bears an iconic relationship to the human form—its edge circumscribes the figure of the cross, its vertical and horizontal axes correspond to the height of the body and the stretch of the arms.
Light (明) is sun (日) and moon (月).
Mirror (镜) is the homophonous with silence (静).
Mouth (口) is the border around field (田).
Negative (莫): sun (日) sinks into the horizon of a field of grass (艹). In the foreground, a person (人) with arms stretched wide.
Open (开) reconfigures field (田). The left vertical line and the bottom horizontal line disappear. The remainder two vertical lines move to the left, with one curving outwards.
My first understanding of perspective (透视) came from learning Chinese calligraphy from my grandfather. I was three and did not yet know how to read. Writing was more about images: the ideogram for word (字) is a child (子) under a roof (宀). I imagined myself as that child. My grandfather explained calligraphy to me as looking through a window: one-point perspective cross-cuts across a field (田). The written word, the “vertical,” stands in relief against a horizon receding toward a vanishing point.
Perspective: penetrating (透) vision (视); vision which renders objects in view transparent (透明).
Voir, c’est la traversée des miroirs. (To see is to go through mirrors.) — Edmond Jabès (translated by Rosmarie Waldrop)
Screen (幕) is negative (莫) fabric (巾).
Self (自) is homophonous with word (字). Take the center point of heart (心) to rest on top of eye (目): self (自) is heart above vision.
Silence (静) is the homonymous with mirror (镜).
Shutter (快门) is fast (快) door (门).
In classical Chinese, cloud (云) doubles as the written character for an homonymous word meaning “to speak.” Speech turns cloud (云) into a verb.
Movement (⻌) of center (中).
Sun (日) adds a horizontal line to mouth (口).
Thought (思) is heart (心) beneath field (田).
Time (时) is an inch (寸) of the sun (日).
Transparent (透明): penetrating (透) light (明).
Window (窗) describes a domestic space. Above: an opening (穴) in the roof (宀); below: the setting sun (夕) within a hinged frame (囱).
Word (字) is child (子) under roof (宀).
Word (字) is homophonous with self (自).
The word which is our mirror and our wound. — Rosmarie Waldrop on Edmond Jabès