Sunday, January 29, 2012

'Art' in China

...copper red flash on a pot in Jingdezhen...
On my recent trip to China, I met many artists who worked in the traditional brush painting styles and their level of skill was amazing. They mostly painted onto fine rice paper and then had the paintings mounted onto 'silk' scroll panels. Animals, insects, birds, trees, mountains, water and 'minority' peoples were the common themes.

...paintings by Li Jun, in Wuxi, 1 hour West of Shanghai - We hope to see him in Australia soon teaching a workshop -If you live on the Sunshine Coast and would like to attend, let me know.
Calligraphic poems were also popular, and I learnt that artists often use the old style of calligraphy known as 'seal' [as in the name stamps] style writing. Most people can't read the poem, but no matter - the forms of the letters are beautiful and are art works in their own right.
...Xie Rong Ren at the Art and Literature Society, Xiamen...
...children in a calligraphy class...
We found a fabulous art form in a gallery on Gulangu Island [piano island], just a short ferry ride from Xiamen. The letters are carved into wooden blocks in the old 'seal' style, then painted, forming fabulous abstract designs with a hint of representation.
Some brush artists specialise in painting onto ceramic forms - from vases to large flat porcelain slabs, usually
with cobalt oxide under white or clear glaze.
We were taken to a factory in Xiamen producing china table ware for export - hmmm - some lovely tea sets but some very gaudy red and gold stuff as well.
We visited the factory in Yi Xing where famous small red clay teapots are hand made from a fast disappearing clay which is said to bring out the very finest flavour in the teas.
Did you know that some teas [picked from the tiny top leaves at a special time of year] are worth thousands of dollars a kilo. The tea culture is very serious.
We had a glimse of one of the commercial art zones where artists often copy other artists' works for the mass market in the West. Not quite sure how all of this worked.
This is the 'famous' laquer style of Xiamen...
...and the weird and dusty fibreglass multiple images sculptures...
...'splash' in the Meridian Hotel foyer, Xiamen...
...clean, new, spacious studio/display rooms...
...a very pleasant painting with mass appeal...
...cutest sales girl ever, with one of the many machinery paintings - appealing to the mining magnates of the world????
We did meet a young man, Mr Yi Lin, painting in his own style - apparently popular in America.
Unfortunately, I saw very little contemporary art to my taste. I think if we had gone to Shanghai or Beijing [next trip??] it would have been a different story. We were mostly in rural cities and 'new economic zones' and were mostly guided by non artist contacts.
These are my 2 favourite 'art works' of the trip.... 
...on the wall above our old style accommodation in Xiamen...
... fresh peeling paint on the wall of one of the new art gallery spaces.

My trip to China was fabulous in many ways - people, food, old villages, scenery, history. If I go again, I hope to find the areas where the contemporary artists hang out. Even so, we have made many new friends and have made contacts for future collaborations.


  1. j'aime l'arbre et ces racines..
    sculpture nature.. les petits mains qui décorent la porcelaine..presque une usine..!?!

  2. Thank you for this amazing overview of culture. I really enjoyed this wonderful post.

  3. Thanks for the cultural journey Noela. Love the brushwork on pots, but I'm with you re artistic taste.

  4. Hi N- it is like beginnings and endings for me. Loved the simplicity of the red brush stroke at the beginning and the tree remains on top of your accommodation at the end. Goo to see the memories of the trip are still strong. Go well. B

  5. My favourite is the copper red flash on the first one of course, I can see you had a good time.

  6. For us that live in Ontario, Canada it is a LOOOONG trip to venture to China. I have not as yet decided if I want to sit in a plane for that long and so I can explore through you....and what fun it is.....not sure if my husband would want to visit the neat artists anyhow so get to see "art" through your eyes. Cheers, Karin Lynn, Ontario Canada

  7. My goodness.. you have so much here in imagery and history and art and people and artists and culture .. I don't know where to begin.. what a wonderful trip to China!

  8. Thanks for the comments, one and all... yes, I think I am still in a bit of overload from the tripping around in 2011 - so much I could blog about but where to start and where to finish. It is even stranger that we in Australia live in 'Asia' but are culturally European - oh - such a complex dilema of ancestry !!!