34 • A Remarkable Scholar's Root Wood

34 • A Remarkable Scholar's Root Wood

Japan or China; 17th or 18th century
154 cm high; Cedar wood on a base of Andaman redwood

Like rocks, root wood was traditionally much admired and used in East Asia for its aesthetic and the ability it had to bring its observer closer to nature. Often carved into different shapes, sculptures or objects; in this instance its extraordinary form was left exactly as nature intended.

An ancient East Asian proverb states that ‘calligraphy reveals the person,’ implying that all the signs which can be read of the calligrapher – applied pressure, speed and rhythm – reveal the artist’s state of mind. This root has all the elegance and expressiveness of a swirl of calligraphy, and being by nature’s hand might be seen to represent a little of her – dynamic, elegant, fragile.

During the course of researching this object, one greatly valued friend replied to my request for information with the following:

‘The root is wonderful, nature is the perfect sculptor, whether it is Chinese or Japanese I do not know, it does not really matter, it is just…beautiful.’

Another replied with the following quote by Immanuel Kant, 1784:

‘From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.’