Marden on the Zen origins of his Cold Mountain paintings
Artist Brice Marden.
I used, as the basis for this group of paintings, poems by a poet named Han Shan, who was a Tang Dynasty poet, who wrote the kind of Zen nature poems. And I found a translation which showed the poems in Chinese. So I could see the structure in Chinese, and I took that structure and used that as the basis for the paintings. You could probably go through this painting and distinguish each time it was painted on. In the beginning, they get very gestural; and then a lot of the additional drawing tends to slow down that gesture. I would erase, just by painting white over the existing black line. And these lines start becoming counter figures, or ghost figures.
In the poems, they’re constantly talking about these monks wandering in the mountains, and they’re meditating, and the achievement of truth, you know, you cross this bridge. And it’s a very tricky stone bridge, and that’s where the immortals are living. And this painting evolved so that there was a sort of arc. So that’s why it’s called Cold Mountain (Bridge).
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