The calligrapher Wang Dongling, who is almost 70 years old, recently debuted a new series entitled Squiggles [Luanshu, literally "chaotic calligraphy"] at his solo exhibition at the Sanshang Museum of Contemporary Art in Hangzhou. As the title suggests, he compresses the spaces between characters and lines, allowing them to push against and even overlap with each other and creating the overall impression of formless chaos.
But this does not mean that Squiggles is haphazardly written. An active calligrapher for several decades already, Wang Dongling specializes in monumental renditions of cursive script and maintains a daily practice of copying model books. He has masterful control of calligraphiclines and of the construction and composition of characters. Even when writing "chaotically" he observes the principles of tradition. Each character is structurally sound, and each column of characters has a sense of coherence and continuity (hangqi — literally "column-breath"). Unlike traditional calligraphy, however, Squiggles flaunts the requirement for legibility in its character arrangement.
Wang Dongling himself says, "An important lesson in traditional calligraphy is that characters should not overlap, even less columns. In art history, only Xu Wei managed to eliminate the distance between columns, but even his characters didn't break into each other's space. Later, Zheng Banqiao wrote characters like "random stones covering thestreet" — some small, some large. But I completely broke what was for the ancients an untouchable principle."
The characters and columns are proportionally compressed and overlap with each other.