The Music of Ink: Biographies

Yang Lian 杨炼

Yang Lian was born in Switzerland in 1955, and grew up in Beijing. He began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s. On his return to Beijing he became one of the first group of young ‘underground’ poets, who published the literary magazine Jintian. Yang Lian’s poems became well-known and influential inside and outside of China in the 1980s, especially when his poem ‘Norlang’ was criticized by the Chinese government during the ‘Anti-Spiritual Pollution’ movement.

Yang Lian was invited to visit Australia and New Zealand in 1988 and became a poet in exile after the Tian’anmen massacre. Since that time, he has continued to write and speak out as a highly individual voice in world literature, politics and culture. Yang Lian has published seven selections of poems, two selections of prose and many essays in Chinese. His work has also been translated into more than twenty languages, including English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Eastern European languages.

Yang Lian was awarded the Flaiano International Poetry Prize (Italy, 1999) and his book Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems won the title ‘Poetry Books Society Recommended Translation’ (UK, 1999). His three volumes of collected works, Yang Lian Zuo Pin 1982¬¬-1997 (2 vols) and Yang Lian Xin Zuo 1998-2002 have eventually been published in China. His most recent translations into English have been Yi, a book-length poem, and Notes of a Blissful Ghost, a selection of poems. His new book Concentric Circles will be published by Bloodaxe Books in 2005.

Publications (in English)
In Symmetry with Death, trans. John Minford (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1989)
Masks and Crocodile, trans. Mabel Lee (Sydney: Wild Peony Ltd, 1990)
The Dead in Exile, trans. Mabel Lee (Sydney: Tiananmen Publications, 1990)
Non-Person Singular, trans. Brian Holton (London: Wellsweep Press, 1994)
Where the Sea Stands Still, trans. Brian Holton (London: Wellsweep Press, 1995)
Where the Sea Stands Still – New Poems, trans. Brian Holton (Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books, 1999)
City of Dead Poets (Ludwigshafen, Germany: Cyperfection. CD-Rom with texts, readings and interviews)
Yi, trans. Mabel Lee (Los Angeles: Green Integer / Sun and Moon Press, 2001)
Notes of a Blissful Ghost, trans. Brian Holton (Hong Kong: Renditions Paperback).
Concentric Circles, trans. Brian Holton (Newcastle: Bloodaxe Books, 2005)

Publications (in Chinese)
Li hun 礼魂 (Xi’an: Dangdai Zhongguo Qingnian Shiren Congshu, 1985)
Huang hun 荒魂 (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 1986)
Huang 黄 (Beijing: Renmin Wenxue Chubanshe, 1989)
Ren de zijue 人的自觉 (Sichuan: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 1989)
Taiyang yu ren 太阳与人 (Hunan: Hunan Wenyi Chubanshe, 1991)
Yi (Taipei: Modern Poetry Books, 1994)
Gui hua 鬼话 (Taipei:Lian-Jing Publisher Company, 1994)
With Yo Yo, Ren jing – gui hua 人景--鬼话 (Beijing: Central Translation Press, 1994)
Yang Lian zuopin 1982 – 1997 杨炼作品 1982-1997 (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 1998)
Yang Lian xinzuo 1998-2002 杨炼新作 1988-2002 (Shanghai: Shanghai Wenyi Chubanshe, 2003).

From the cover of Yang Lian’s book-long poem Concentric Circles:

Before and since his enforced exile, Yang Lian has been one of the most innovative and influential poets in China. Widely hailed in America and Europe as a highly individual voice, he has been translated into many languages.

Yang Lian has written that Concentric Circles is ‘the most important piece since I came out of China’, and that it is emphatically not a political work, but instead a work focused on ‘deep reality’ and the nature of how humans understand that reality through the medium of language. The book, like the sections of which it is comprised, uses a kind of collage, where many small fragments, each complete in itself, are aligned together in a series of patterns to form a grander mosaic: from line to line, poem to poem, cycle to cycle, in ever-widening concentric structures.

‘Yang Lian is one of the most astonishing poets I've read for years. He has a westernist, modernist sensibility allied with an ancient Chinese, almost shamanistic one. He can both excite and frighten you - like MacDiarmid meets Rilke with Samurai sword drawn!’ - W.N. Herbert, Scotsman

‘He continues his work bridging Chinese tradition to western modernism. The scope of his creative imagination is astounding. Yang Lian is one of the great world poets of our era’ - Klaus Rifberg, Edinburgh Review

’Yang Lian distinguishes himself in representing the pain of life caught in between historic eras...a new version of an old issue for world literature as well as Chinese literature is proposed: how to continue writing, relying on individual rather than enforced communal inspiration’ - Allen Ginsberg

‘It wouldn't surprise me if he became a future Nobel Laureate. His style is one of extraordinary grandeur and ambition. Without question, the sequence Where the Sea Stands Still has a monumental drive, a sensuous strength and intellectual clarity; it could prove as enduring an achievement as Montale's Xenia or Elytis's The Axion Esti’ - David Morley, Stand

Yang Lian was born in Switzerland, the son of a diplomat, and grew up in Beijing. He began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s, and on his return co-founded the inþuential literary magazine Jintian (Today - now published in exile in Scandinavia). His work was criticised offcially in China in 1983 and then banned in 1989 when he organised memorial services for the dead of Tiananmen while in New Zealand. After spells in Australia, Germany and the USA, he has now settled in London. His previous collection, Where the Sea Stands Still (Bloodaxe Books, 1999), was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation.

Romesh Gunesekera

Romesh Gunesekera is the author of three novels: Heaven’s Edge, The Sandglass and Reef (shortlisted for the 1994 Booker Prize and The Guardian Fiction Prize). His first book, Monkfish Moon (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year), was a collection of short stories. His literary awards include the BBC’s inaugural Asia Award for Writing and Literature, a Yorkshire Post Book Award, a Premio Mondello Five Continents award in Italy, and several poetry prizes.

This year he has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. His writing is widely anthologised and published in more than ten languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese and Chinese.

He has been a judge for the David Cohen Prize for British Literature and the Amnesty Media Awards, and a Guest Director at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature. He is currently on the Council of the Arvon Foundation and the Board of Visiting Arts, and a judge of the 2005 Caine Prize for African Writing.

His involvement with China has been longstanding through the Great Britain China Centre and the British Council where he was Assistant Regional Director for East Asia in the early 1990s. Most recently he visited China to speak at the 2004 Beijing Book Fair, and before that to join the 2003 Writers’ Train as one of four British writers on a 10,000 kilometre journey around China with four Chinese writers.

Monkfish Moon (London: Granta Books, 1992).
Reef (London: Granta Books, 1994)
The Sandglass (London: Granta Books, 1998).
Heaven’s Edge (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2002).

Qu Leilei 曲磊磊

Qu Leilei was born in Heilongjiang, China, in 1951, and now lives in London. He grew up in Beijing and, as a child, studied traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. As a young adult he was sent to the countryside, where he learnt to be a ‘barefoot doctor’ and later studied anatomy at Beijing Medical University, 1977-78. In 1979 he was a founding member of the Stars Art Movement, the influential group of Chinese artists who fought for greater freedom of expression within the arts after the Cultural Revolution. A selection of his forceful early work is published in his book, A Visual Diary (1996).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s he worked at China Central Television, covering the horrendous earthquake in Tangshan, and attending the trial of China’s prominent dissident Wei Jingsheng. His secret tape-recording of Wei’s self-defence was subsequently transcribed and posted up on Beijing’s Democracy Wall.

Qu Leilei came to London in 1985, and studied painting and drawing at the Central School of Art and Design. Since then he has continued his work as an artist with numerous exhibitions worldwide. He is also well-known as a tutor/lecturer in Chinese art, calligraphy and taichi, having taught at many places in the UK, including The British Museum, the V&A, the Great Britain China Centre, The Far Eastern Painting Society (London), the School of Oriental and African Studies, Christie’s Institute, Sotheby’s Institute, the Mary Ward Centre and the Ruskin School of Art (Oxford). He was awarded the Millenium Adult Tutor Award (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) in 2000. He is currently Honorary President of the Chinese Brush Painters Society (UK).

His paintings will be displayed in a solo exhibition ‘Everyone’s Life is an Epic’ at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in March 2005.

A Visual Diary (London: L.L. Books, 1996)
Here and Now: to Face a New Century, Exhibition catalogue (London: The Old Truman Brewery, 1999)
Qu Leilei Art Exhibition, Exhibition catalogue (Singapore, 2001)
The Simple Art of Chinese Calligraphy (London: Cico Books, 2002)
The Simple Art of Chinese Brush Painting (London: Cico Books, 2004)
The Simple Art of Tai Chi: Step-by-step Fitness and Harmony for Body and Mind (London: Cico Books, 2004)
Chinese Calligraphy: Standard Script for Beginners (London: The British Museum Press, 2004)

Solo Exhibitions
Jan 1991 Barclays Business Centre, London
Oct 1992 ‘Linear Rhythm’, The Centre Gallery, Covent Garden, London
Sept 1993 ‘East going West’, Tricycle Theatre, London
Sept 1997 Chinese Contemporary Gallery, London
Apr 1999 ‘Nude’, The Redfern Gallery, London
Sept 1999 ‘Here and now – to face a new century’, The Old Truman Brewery, London
Nov 2000 Galerie Leda Fletcher, Geneva
Nov 2001 Singapore
Apr 2001 Geneva
Mar 2005 ‘Everyone’s Life is an Epic’, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

May 1979 ‘The Art Exhibition’, Shanghai (2nd prize)
Sept 1979 ‘The Stars Exhibition 1’, Beijing
Aug 1980 ‘The Stars Exhibition 2’, Beijing
Aug 1983 ‘The Hard Time’, TV film, Art Design, National Awards (1st prize)
Oct 1985 ‘National Ceramics Exhibition’, Beijing
Oct 1986 ‘East meets West’, Holland Gallery, London
Sept 1987 ‘Contemporary Chinese Art’, Royal Festival Hall, London
Oct 1988 ‘Artists and Places’, Barclays Business Centre, London
Jan 1989 ‘The Stars Exhibition 3’, Hanart Gallery, Hong Kong and Taipei
Oct 1989 ‘Drum Show’, The Arena, Broadgate, London
Dec 1989 ‘Never Forget’, Pomipidou Centre, Paris
Nov 1994 ‘20th Century Chinese Art’, The Gallery, Cowcross Street, London
Feb 1995 The Blue Gallery, South Kensington, London
June 1995 Boundry Gallery, Cransford, Suffolk
May 1996 ‘Fine Chinese Works of Art’, Christie’s, Paris
July 1996 Summer Exhibition, The Redfern Gallery, London
Oct 1996 ‘Contemporary Chinese Art’, Galleri Asur, Oslo
Jan 1997 ‘Art 97’, Thompson’s Gallery, Business Design Centre, London
Feb 1997 ‘Far from Shore’ (Chinese contemporary exhibition), Pitshanger Manor and Gallery, London
July 1998 ‘5000+10’, Bilbao
July 1998 ‘Chinese Contemporary Art’, Mountbron, France
Aug 1998 Summer Exhibition, The Redfern Gallery, London
June 1999 ‘Artisti Cinesi in Contemporanea con la Biennale’, (48th Venice Biennale)
Oct 1999 ‘Chinese Contemporary Painting’, Le Manoir, Geneva
Mar 2000 Salon de Mars, Geneva
Apr 2000 ‘The Stars Exhibition 4’ (20th anniversary), Tokyo
Apr 2000 ‘Art towards Reconciliation’, Guernica Museum, Spain
Apr 2001 Salon de Mars, Geneva
June 2001 ‘Outdoor Banner Event of Artists and Poets for Venice 2001’, (49th Venice Biennale)
May 2002 ‘Chinese painting from the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection’, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Selected articles
John Gittings, ‘Bright sparks in the new dawn of Chinese art’, Guardian Third World Review, 24 Dec 1980.
Stephen C. Soong and John Minford, Trees on the Mountain: an Anthology of New Chinese Writing, The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong, 1984.
Linda Talbot, ‘Artist whose past is in the Stars’, Ham and High, 28 Nov 1986.
‘An Artist Abroad’, Xibei SiYu/Culture, SiYu Publishing, London, Jan-Feb 1987.
Kevin Sinclair, ‘Culture after the Revolution’, Hong Kong Standard, 30 Jan 1988.
Ching-shuen, Janny (ed), The Stars: Ten Years, Hanart 2 Ltd, Hong Kong/Taiwan/New York, 1989.
Featured in Film Biweekly/Dianying shuangzhou kan, Hong Kong, 1989.
Kevin Sinclair, ‘Xing Xing Phoenix rising from Revolutionary Ashes’, Hong Kong Standard, 1989.
Rick Richardson, ‘On the outside looking in’, The Guardian, 13 Nov 1990.
‘Chinese Painting / Zhongguo Hua’, Rongbaozhai Quarterly, no. 1, Beijing (1993).
‘Art Currents/Yishu chaoliu – meishu jixing’, Quarterly no. 1, Taipei/Hong Kong (1994).
‘20th Century Chinese Painting and Calligraphy at the British Museum: a Special Presentation’, Eastern Art Report, London (1994).
Ji Wei, ‘The Chinese Moon’, Worldwide Chinese, vol. 1, no. 3 (1995).
Featured (with poet Ruth Padel) in The London Magazine, vol. 36 (1997).
Susan Bright, ‘Qu Lei Lei at Chinese Contemporary’, Asian Art News, Nov/Dec 1997.
Susan Bright, ‘A Journey into Memory’, Asian Art News, Hong Kong, vol. 8, no. 1 (1998).
Catherine Sampson, ‘A Life in the Art of Qu Lei-Lei’, China Review, London (Summer 1999).
David Wilson, ‘Millenium of revealing faces: a father figure of contemporary Chinese art talks about his life and the work he hopes to show in Asia’, South China Morning Post, 27 July 200?
马建著 ,历史在沉默中浮现 –星星画会曲磊磊伦敦画展‘此时此地 – 面对新世纪’,明报月刊 1999/1。
曲磊磊绘画作品 (包括封面) ,美术界2001/5 (159) 。

Denis Brown

Denis Brown was born in 1968 in Dublin, where he still lives, although his work has taken him to many countries. Inspired as a child by the heritage of Irish manuscripts such as The Book of Kells, he embarked on a rigorous formal training in traditional calligraphy at the Roehampton Institute, London, with Ann Camp.

In 1988 he was elected as a Fellow of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators (UK): the first Fellow from Ireland and, at twenty years of age, the youngest Fellow in the history of the SSI. He was awarded Fellowship of CLAS, the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society, at its inception in 1994. He has won awards and commissions on four continents, and is internationally recognized as a world leader in the field of letter arts, not only for his traditional calligraphy, but also for his highly original and experimental work in glass and digital art.

As a teacher of calligraphy, he has conducted workshops at the invitation of calligraphy guilds in the USA, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and Italy.

The numerous awards and prizes for his calligraphy and other art include the Golden Web Award (2001-03), Crafts Council of Ireland awards (1989, 1992, 2003), RDS National Crafts Competition prizes (1989-1993, 1997-2000, 2003), the California Gold Medal (1989, 1992), the Boyne Valley National Art Competition (1990), the Philip T. Brooks Memorial Prize (1991), the Muriel Gahan Scholarship (1992), the Glass Society of Ireland Award (1998, 2000) and first prize in Letter Arts Review (USA) annual review of 2003.

His work is also known in East Asia. He was nominated for the Japan Design Foundation, 6th Osaka Design Award, in 1992. He was awarded Honorary Membership of the Hong Kong Letter Arts Club in 1998, and Honorary Membership of the Alpha Beta Club (ABC) in Hong Kong in 2001.

Although not currently exhibiting, his work can be seen on his website and in a large number of books and journals. For full details, see

Solo exhibitions
1988 Marsden Arms, Oxford
1992 Riverrun Gallery, Dublin
Hallward Gallery, Dublin
Grainstore Gallery, Galway
1994 Royal Hibernian Academy Gallagher Gallery, Dublin
Art Center of Battle Creek, Michigan, USA
1996 Hallward Gallery, Dublin
1998 Danmarks Grafiske Museum, Odense, Denmark

1990 RHA annual exhibition, Dublin
1991 ‘Europaisches Kunsthandwerk’, Stuttgart
‘The Great Book of Ireland’, Irish Museum of Modern Art
‘Fine Words, Fine Books’, St Paul's Cathedral, London
Oireachtas Exhibition, Dublin
1992 RHA annual exhibition, Dublin
1993 ‘Contemporary Irish Art’, Fujita Vente Museum, Tokyo
‘Talentborse Handwerk’, Internationale Handwerksmesse, Munich
Oireachtas Exhibition, Dublin
1994 ‘The California Experience II’ (faculty exhibition), Pitzer College, Los Angeles
RHA Exhibition, Dublin
Grainstore Gallery, Galway
1995 ‘Decorative Arts Today’, Bonhams, London
Oireachtas Exhibition, Dublin
‘Gateway to Art’, Dublin Airport;
‘Bridges and Crossroads’, Irish Life Center (and touring exhibition)
‘Codes & Messages’, UK Crafts Council (and touring exhibition)
1996 ‘Word as Image’, Black Swan Guild, Somerset
SSI ‘Celebration of Calligraphy’, Leighton House, London
‘Words Revealed’, MAC Center, Birmingham (and touring exhibition)
‘Picturing the Word. The Book of Kells’, Trinity College, Dublin
Oireachtas Exhibition, Dublin
1997 ‘Belle Lettere Exhibition’, Cittadella, Italy
‘Gateway to Art’, Dublin Airport
SSI Exhibitions, Durham Art Gallery & Leamington Art Gallery
‘Confluence’ (faculty and juried exhibits), Southern Illinois University, St. Louis
‘Celebrating American Poetry’, Frye Art Museum, Seattle
1998 ‘Discoveries’ (faculty exhibit), University of San Diego, USA
1999 ‘Writing Beyond Words’, Connecticut, USA
Alpha Beta Club exhibition, Hong Kong
‘Internationale Kalligraphie’, Berchtold Villa, Salzburg, Austria
2001 (Faculty show) Calligraphic Odyssey conference, Boston, USA
(Travelling exhibition) RDS National Craft Winners
‘Living Letters’, CLAS Fellows & Associates Exhibition, UK
2002 (Faculty show) Connections conference, Minnesota, USA
2004 ‘Living Letters 2’, CLAS Fellows & Associates Exhibition, UK

European Parliament, Strasbourg and Brussels; San Francisco Public Library; British Library, London; Trinity College Library, Dublin; Chester Beatty Library, Dublin; Crafts Council of Ireland; Irish Office of Public Works; Irish Association of Pension Funds, Irish Life plc; The Great Book of Ireland, Dublin Castle; Hon. Society of the Kings Inns, Dublin; Cittadella Town Council, Italy; Calligraphy Society of Victoria, Australia; Arthur Jaffe Collection, Florida

Zeng Laide 曾来德

Zeng Laide was born in Sichuan, China, in 1955, and now lives in Beijing. He joined the army in 1973, and was initially based in northwestern China, where he was engaged in combat, communications (he studied telecommunications engineering in Xi’an, 1976-80), in cultural work and increasingly in the creative arts. He was transferred to Beijing in 1994, where he now lives and works.

He started to learn calligraphy in 1980 with the Chinese master Hu Gongshi. He became a Member of the China Calligraphers Association in 1982, and in 1984 came second in China’s ‘First National Wenhui Calligraphy Competition’. In 1986 he was the subject of the film ‘The Army’s Inkman’, which was translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Japanese. His first solo exhibitions were in Chengdu in 1988 and in Beijing in 1989. Two touring exhibitions have taken his work all over China in the 1990s, and, more recently ‘Return to my alma mater’ was displayed at 100 universities in China, 2003-04.

In 1999 he established the Zeng Laide Arts Centre in Beijing, which serves not only as his studio, but also as a centre for artists visiting from around the world. In 2004 he was appointed Professor at Beijing University and also transferred to the Chinese Academy of Painting as a professional calligrapher.

1984 China’s ‘First National Wenhui Calligraphy Competition’ (second prize)
2002 Award for ‘Silent Landscapes’ at the ‘Tenth National Art Exhibition of China’s Military Personnel’

The Liberation of Ningxia, 1985
A Collection of Zeng Laide’s Calligraphy (part 1), 1991
A Collection of Zeng Laide’s Calligraphy (part 2), 1997
A Collection of Zeng Laide’s Calligraphy (part 3), 2000
Zeng Laide, Writings on Calligraphy, 2000
A Record of Zeng Laide’s Discussions on Art, 2000
Silent Landscapes: A Collection of Zeng Laide’s Paintings, 2002

Solo exhibitions
1988 ‘A selection of calligraphic works by Zeng Laide’, Chengdu
1989 ‘A selection of calligraphic works by Zeng Laide’, Beijing
1990s ‘A series of exhibitions of Zeng Laide’s calligraphic art’ were displayed at twelve locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Anhui, Shandong, Shenyang, Wuhan, Zhengzhou, Xi’an, Chengdu, Lanzhou and Shenzhen.
2003 ‘Returning to my alma mater’, tours 100 universites in China, starting at Beijing University
2004 ‘Returning to my alma mater’, at Wuhan University, China’s University of Science and Technology and the Southwest Normal University

1999 ‘Gateway to the world: Contemporary art in China’
2000 ‘Our homeland: an exhibition by six artists’, Chengdu
2002 ‘Tenth National Art Exhibition of China’s Military Personnel’
2002 ‘Nominations for Distinctive Qualities in Water and Ink Painting’, China Central Art Academy
2003 ‘A series of landscapes’ Art Academy of China

Rohan de Saram

Rohan de Saram was born in Britain in 1939, and now lives in London. One of the world’s leading cellists, particularly in contemporary music, his career spans several decades. He studied with Gaspar Gaspar Cassadò in Italy, as well as with André Navarra and Pablo Cassals. His first solo concert, aged just sixteen, was at the Royal Festival Hall with Ernest Read and his Youth Orchestra. He made his debut at the Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1959 playing Khatchaturian’s cello concerto, conducted by Skrowacewsky.

Since then he has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic, with some of the world’s great conductors, including Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Colin Davis, Zubin Mehta, John Pritchard, William Steinberg and Seji Ozawa.

He is particularly interested in contemporary music, and has worked closely with many composers, including Kodaly, Shostakovich, Poulenc, Walton, Xenakis, Ligeti and Berio.

Today he plays solo; with his pianist brother Druvi de Saram; as a Member of the De Saram Clarinet Trio; as a Member of the Arditti Quartet and as a Member of AMM (improvised music).

Selected Recordings
Benjamin Britten: Cello Suites no.1–3 (CD: Montaigne MO-782081)
Rohan de Saram (cello)

Stefano Scodanibbio: My New Address (CD: Stradivarius STR-33668)
Magnus Andersson (guitar), Mario Caroli (flute), Elena Casoli and Jürgen Ruck (guitars), Rohan de Saram (cello), Francesco D’Orazio (violin), Ian Pace (piano)

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Helikopter-Streichquartett (CD: Montaigne MO-782097)
Arditti Quartet: Irvine Arditti (violin), Graeme Jennings (violin), Garth Knox (viola), Rohan de Saram (cello)

Allan Berg: Streichquartett op.3, Lyrische Suite (CD: Montaigne MO-782119)
Arditti Quartet: Irvine Arditti (violin), David Alberman (violin), Levine Andrade, (viola), Rohan de Saram (cello)

AMM: The Inexhaustible Document (CD: Matchless MR-CD13)
AMM: Eddie Prévost (percussion), Rohan de Saram (cello), Keith Rowe (guitar), John Tilbury (piano)