[Painting above: "Streams and Mountains with a Clear Distant View", by Xia Gui. Click to enlarge. ]
I pored over books of Sung and T'ang dynasty painting. The painters and writers of the time were often victims of political turmoil, and their inked images of remote valleys and deep forests stood for the way the natural world soaked up their anguish, disillusionment, bewilderment, sudden losses, and consequent solitude. Their paintings were emblematic. In those spindly mountains and etched valleys, lines of trees and bamboo forests, and tiny human-made pavilions there was a hallucinatory balance, a clear track out of reckless exhilaration and despair. I too had withdrawn from the world and turned my energies towards ink on paper--both painting and writing. Semisuicidal and unable to sleep at night, I'd peer at those landscapes by flashlight. Though stylized, they emitted a fresh sense; they were places to which I could go in my mind's eyes. They never failed to save me.
~ Taken from Future of Ice by Gretel Ehrlich
[ Painting on the left: "Early Spring", painted in 1072, considered one of the masterpieces of the Northern Sung monumental landscape tradition. Click to enlarge.]