“Simple Art of” is always a hostage to fortune because it risks reducing something that’s really quite complex to a mere formula, or of looking as though it’s missed the point completely. However, in this case, there’s a let-out because, of course, one of the main elements of Chinese painting is simplicity.
Chinese painting has long held a fascination for Westerners and it is this element of simplification that holds the greatest attraction. In its purest form, of course, every brushstroke carries a philosophical significance and forms and colours can often be reduced almost to abstraction.
Qu Lei Lei learnt calligraphy from his parents, but has lived in Britain since 1981 and adapts the Chinese style subtly for Western eyes, producing just slightly more realistic forms and slightly more subtle colours that sit comfortably with our expectations and palettes. This is a project-based book, so the 15 demonstrations are fairly short and beginners might find themselves wanting a little more detail. I’d suggest, however, that this something for those who already have a little experience in the field and are looking to expand the creative possibilities of the style rather than learn the most basic techniques. This is an attractive and delightful book that offers a great deal without ever labouring anything.