Triptych vs. A Long Scroll

Triptych a painted or carved triptych typically has three hinged panels, and the two outer panels can be folded in towards the central one. A literary or musical triptych generally consists of three closely related or contrasting themes or parts. Triptych derives from the Greek triptychos (“having three folds”), formed by combining tri- (“three”) and ptychē (“fold” or “layer”). Although triptych originally described a specific type of Roman writing tablet that had three hinged sections, it is not surprising that the idea was generalized first to a type of painting, and then to anything composed of three parts.(Merriam-webster, 2020)

Handscroll is a format with a long and horizontal sheet of paper/ silk cloth in the traditional Chinese art. This unique format enables as bibliographical reading or history of collecting of the painting. It is not known whether the horizontal painting defined the handscroll format, or the virtues of handscroll popularized the horizontal type (Artnet, 2013). But landscape painting is perhaps most commonly presented as a unified-continuous-panoramic picture on a long and narrow roll. The landscape painting in a format of handscroll can be well illustrated and represented as a “complete narrative” and “complete visual imagery”. It also provides you with comprehensive pictorial plots, and visual surprises from the visual and textual narratives. Within the handscroll frame and canvas, Visual and poetic space are representing in this “linear-narrative” and “transcendental-space”. The handscroll is often comparatively as extension to screening of a film and can be viewed in terms of reader’s pace, interpretations, and visual fascination and pleasure. This tradition art form could be popularized over 1,000 years and continuously to have great influence to the Chinese Contemporary art.

Creative Writing on Triptych (Smithson/ Dillon/ I)

Referring to Stream of consciousness (James, 1890), as coined from psychological novel, it attempted to capture the “total flow of the characters’ consciousness” rather than limit to rational thoughts. It also broke through the logical way of novel by representing the fullness, richness, speed, and subtlety of the mind at work- stream of consciousness. The writing incorporates incoherent/ illogical thought, ungrammatical construction/ chaos, and free association of ideas, images, and words at the “pre-speech level”. This narrative technique in nondramatic fiction intended to render the flow of myriad impressions—visual, auditory, physical, associative, and subliminal—that impinge on the consciousness of an individual and form part of awareness along with the trend of rational or philosophical thoughts to the field of contemporary art.


The concept of “Triptych” will be employed that projects the parallel-reading in association with words, images, and thoughts in terms of reading space from Robert Smithson’s A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey (1967)/ Brian Dillon’s Objects in This Mirror (2006)/ my writing on Walking Along the Stream (2020) to confine the artistic philosophy on Earth Art, Essayism, Aesthetics of Ruins, multi-layered and subconscious meaning, and the Flows of Stream etc… In terms of “Creative Writing on Triptych”, the writing of Smithson, Dillon, and myself will be cross-interacted or interfered to each other, and definitely irrational grammatical structure and projected meanings would be finally nourished and achieved. For some extents, the Bacon’s “Triptych paintings cannot be read by its individual panel, but a plural and multi-layered of representation of words, colors, lines, compositions, and artistic thoughts can be reveal through chaos and abstracts. Thus, creative writing is one of crucial and significant way to refine/ confine/ upgrade/ sublime artists’ thoughts beyond words and images.

1 (Robert Smithson)

On Saturday, September 30, 1967, I went to the Port Authority Building on 41st Street and 8th Avenue. I bought a copy of the New York Times and a Signet Paperback called Earthworks by Brian W. Aldiss. Next I went to ticket booth 21 and purchased a one-way ticket to Passaic. After that I went up to the upper bus level (platform 173) and boarded the number 30 bus of the Inter-City Transportation Co.


I sat down and opened the Times. I glanced over the art section: a “Collectors’, Critics’, Curators’ Choice” at A.M. Sachs Gallery (a letter I got in the mail that morning invited me “to play the game before the show closes October 4th”), Walter Schatzki was selling “Prints, Drawings, Watercolors” at 331/3% off,” Elinor Jenkins, the “Romantic Realist,” was showing at Barzansky Galleries, XVIII—XIX Century English Furniture on sale at Parke-Bernet, “New Directions in German Graphics” at Goethe House, and on page 28 was John Canaday’s column. He was writing on Themes and the Usual Variations. I looked at a blurry reproduction of Samuel F.B. Morse’s Allegorical Landscape at the top of Canaday’s column; the sky was a subtle newsprint grey, and the clouds resembled sensitive stains of sweat reminiscent of a famous Yugoslav watercolorist whose name I have forgotten. A little statue with right arm held high faced a pond (or was it the sea?). “Gothic” buildings in the allegory had a faded look, while an unnecessary tree (or was it a cloud of smoke?) seemed to puff up on the left side of the landscape. Canaday referred to the picture as “standing confidently along with other allegorical representatives of the arts, sciences, and high ideals that universities foster.” My eyes stumbled over the newsprint, over such headlines as “Seasonal Upswing,” “


1 (Brain Dillon)

I arrive at the Port Authority Bus Terminal about midday on April 18, 2006, and make my way upstairs from the subway level to find an information booth. I have decided to reconstruct as far as I can Smithson’s tour of the monuments of Passaic.


On the concourse, he bought a copy of the New York Times, a Signet Paperback edition of Brian Aldiss’s science-fiction novel Earthworks, and a ticket for the number 30 bus, bound for Passaic, New Jersey. He had with him a small Kodak Instamatic 400 camera, seven rolls of black-and-white film, and a spiral-bound note-book in which he had begun to draft an essay entitled “A Guide to the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey”.

For several months, Smithson had been in the habit of visiting (usually by car) the area around Passaic – the town, twelve miles from Manhattan, where he was born in 1938. His family had soon moved east, across the

Passaic river, to Rutherford (where the infant Smithson was treated by a local doctor, William Carlos Williams), then west again to Clifton. Now, a decade or so after his introduction to the New York art world, and on the cusp of the most productive few years of his career (which were also his last), Smithson would occasionally visit his parents back in Clifton.


(Andy Tam)

On 20 May 2020, I am reading the Journeys from Robert Smithson’s “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” and Brain Dillon’s “Objects in This Mirror”. I am imaging that I am Walking Along the Way to here and there, to Greenwich Village, to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, to the junction of 41st Street, and to the 8th Avenue……. to the Passaic River etc.

To the Other cities.

I am walking and walking along the river…….

I am thinking and thinking of Richard Long ’s “A Line Made by “Walking” (1967).

Walking along a line and walking along a line again again again….

A line is there……

I am following Richard Long’s steps.

I am starting my journey from here to there.


Walking Along the River, I am listening Ella Fitzgerald song “Walking by the River” (1952), and reading a film review from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), and then looking at a Chinese Landscape handscroll “Along the River during Qingming festival” (1085–1145).

I am listening the lyrics as well:

There’s dew upon the groun

And not a soul in sight;

I’m walkin’ by the river
‘Cause I’m meeting someone there tonight!
I hear a distant sound
I see a far-off light;
I’m walkin’ by the river
‘Cause I’m meeting someone there tonight!
The murmuring waters say……

I am being leaded by the Stalker, to the heart of the Zone, to the Room, to the World with a wealth of material detail, to a sense of organic atmosphere…… to the Monuments as claimed by Smithson, to the Aesthetics of Ruins as claimed by Dillon…… to the Monuments Monument for Modernism, Monument for PostModernism, Monument for Postindustralism, Monument for Postcolonialism,…… Monument for Consumerism etc…..