This transcription of a poem by the famed Northern Song poet Liu Yong (柳永, 987–1053) exemplifies Wang Dongling’s command of traditional cursive script. Ten tightly packed columns fill the entire space of the decorated paper and draw our attention to Wang’s energized brushwork. The piece showcases Wang’s unique cursive writing style, in which boldly expansive characters alternate with those that are tightly compressed. These rhythmic shifts in the scale, in which single characters are sometimes expressively unfurled with an emphatic ending stroke of exaggerated length, heightens the sensation of spontaneous execution. Such formal variations enliven the densely written field as the writing undergoes constant compression and expansion. The large characters with their extended endings act like visual punctuations, however they bear no relationship to the text’s content. Such arbitrary shifts in scale hark back to the idiosyncratic cursive styles of Wang Duo (1592–1652) and Fu Shan (1607–1684). But unlike those artists, Wang Dongling did not adopt a traditional handscroll or hanging scroll format. Instead, he chose the challenging square format whose uniformly figured field reveals a modernist sensibility reminiscent of Western action painting.
In the final, left-most column, written in a slightly smaller script size, Wang Dongling identifies the source of this text and adds his signature and date. In the traditional manner, he has also impressed two of his seals—one at the beginning and one at the end of the text.
Liu Yong’s lyric-poem (ci) to the tune of “The Rain-Soaked Bell, ” in the dinghai year (2007), Wang Dongling in Hangzhou. Seals: Wang Dongling yin (“Seal of Wang Dongling” 王冬齡印), lower left; Wuzhai (“Studio of Enlightenment” 悟齋 , the artist’s style name), upper right.