Lo Ch’ing exhibits brush & ink paintings in London

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Lo Ch’ing Densely Developed Peach Blossom Spring (2013) Ink & colour on paper

Lo Ch’ing is a multi-talented, charismatic Chinese painter, poet, calligrapher, literary essayist and art critic in the ancient and honourable tradition of the scholar artist. In a world where it is often possible to be gratified by an artist’s work whilst at the same time basically puzzled by it, and dubious of its achievement, Lo Ch’ing’s work stands out  for its evident skill and accomplishment.

His work is being presented in London by Michael Goedhuis – you can see it at Masterpiece until July 2 (Royal Hospital Chelsea South Grounds) and thereafter drop along to Goedhuis at 61 Cadogan Square where it is on display until September 1 (telephone 020 7823 1395).

Lo Ch’ing was born in Qingdao and brought up in Taiwan where he absorbed his knowledge of Chinese humanities and arts, as well as Western literature. He often displays a wry, amused view of life: his published books (for children) include works of poetry with titles like That Smelly Old Tom-Cat and The Interesting Life of a Snail.

Michael Goedhuis observes of his work, ‘Both in his poetry and painting, which are emphatically contemporary in form and intention, he remains linked to the cultural values of the Chinese literati. The purpose of civilised man, according to this elite of scholars, was to become part of the dynamic rhythm of creation and to contribute to the coherent ordering of society. And it was through the practice of panting and poetry and calligraphy that the scholar also realised his own humanity by cultivating and developing the inner life. It has been Lo ‘Ching’s purpose and achievement to carry forward this tradition through works that contain subtle references, both in their titles and in their subject matter, to the great narratives and myths of Chinese history, whilst at the same time expressing his sympathy for and grasp of international high modernism.’

Lo Ch’ing has not exhibited in London for more than twenty years. There are 25 brush and ink paintings on show in the current exhibition.

Magnificent Ming Museum offering in Edinburgh

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Cloisonné dish 16/17th c. and jar with yellow glaze, Hongzhi. Nanjing Museum Photo Paul Harris

The story of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a period marked by a social, cultural and economic transformation and a dramatic flourishing of the arts, is being told in a major exhibition showing at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) this summer, Ming: The Golden Empire. We attended the press preview for the exhibition today and which opens on June 27 We can report that the exhibits are magnificent and quite outstanding.

Some of the fine items on display are drawn from the National Museum’s own extensive Asian collection. (Its own rather fine gallery of Chinese Japanese and Korean artefacts has just been closed for large-scale renovation and is expected to reopen in 2018). They have been more than adequately supplemented by some extraordinary objects from the Nanjing Museum. Nanjing was the birthplace of the Ming dynasty, its first capital before the creation of the Beijing palace complex or ‘Forbidden City’. The NMS is the only place in Britain which will be showing this exhibition of international significance: in fact, it has just transferred from Amsterdam.

Dr Kevin McLoughlin, Principal Curator East and Central Asia, at the NMS explained to us something of the thinking behind the exhibition. “We very much aim to make the culture and history of the Ming Dynasty accessible to people who, perhaps, know little of it. Here we are not  assuming any prior knowledge.” Indeed, the signage and descriptions of exhibits are admirably clear, direct and to the point.

“Our approach is not sinological. We have provided for the visitor things gathered together thematically. The aim is to make it understandable.”

Here, in our view, the exhibition succeeds admirably. The objects are of a sufficiently high standard to impress virtually any viewer and the explanation of them is remarkable for its exemplary clarity.

For 276 years, 16 emperors of the Zhu family, beginning with Zhu Yuanzhang, the first Ming emperor, reigned over the world’s largest, wealthiest and most populated empire. Through this remarkable assembly of treasures, the exhibition examines imperial power, the Ming elite, the development of new wealth, and international trading relationships as they developed over the period. It also sheds interesting light on developing tastes and aesthetics, as Chinese society changed.

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We particularly liked this massive Hongwu plate. Early Ming craftsmen mastered the technique of using copper oxide to produce an underglaze red. Nanjing Museum. Photo Paul Harris

As the exhibition literature further explains: ‘The Ming imperial court commanded the very finest materials and workmanship. This is revealed by the exquisite imperial items and rare objects within the exhibition, including the iconic blue and white porcelain with which the Ming period is synonymous. It was far superior to anything that could be produced in Europe at that time. The rich selection of porcelain of different glazes and decorations on display makes clear that blue and white was actually one among many decorative treatments of Ming porcelain. A meiping (plum vase) jar from the Zhengtong emperor’s reign (1435-1449) features a copper red underglaze, a colour effect so difficult to achieve that it was considered especially suitable for elite use.

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Copper red underglaze on a Zhengtong meiping vase from the Nanjing Museum. Photo Paul Harris

‘ Workshops overseen by imperial eunuchs provided the court with all it needed for ritual, recreation and decoration. Also on display are sumptuous silk textiles, gold and jades, and rare examples of elaborately enamelled cloisonné.

‘At the top of the late Ming social order were the Ming’s educated elite, the literati, who had achieved success through the punishing civil service examination system. Exams were in principle, open to all, and therefore an important means of promoting social mobility. An extraordinary collection of life-like portraits show the faces of some of these men.

‘Accessories to the scholar’s studio, such as painting tables, musical instruments and delicately carved bamboo brushpots, depicting scenes such as pines and cranes, or scholars writing poetry, illustrate the literati ideal of self-cultivation. Many who failed to reach an official position pursued artistic and literary interests instead, and emerged to become the greatest painters, calligraphers, poets and writers of the Ming.

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The NMS is particularly proud of this fish vat taken from its own collection. Jiajing mark and reign with underglaze blue decoration and made in Jingdezhen in the 16th c. Photo Paul Harris

‘Ming: The Golden Empire shows how an increasingly wealthy society led to greater demand for luxury and craft objects, including blue and white decorated porcelain. Using skills and techniques developed for the imperial court, the kilns of Jingdezhen began producing more porcelains to meet the demands of a growing domestic market that sought to emulate the tastes of the literati. Greater discrimination about the quality of goods meant that skilled craftsmen began signing their works just as literati painters did, becoming, in effect, brands.’

Ming: The Golden Empire is supported by investment managers Baillie Gifford. It will also be supported by a programme of events. There is also a publication to accompany the exhibition, featuring many of the beautiful objects on display. This exhibition has been produced by Nomad Exhibitions in association with Nanjing Museum.

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Chicken-fat yellow glaze bowls made in Jingdezhen early to mid-Ming for use as table wares reserved for the Emperor    Photo Paul Harris

 

Ming dragon box goes for 140 times estimate

 

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It was certainly Ming and it was tentatively suggested it just might be an Imperial piece although that is purely potential provenance . . . But that was enough to lift off this small porcelain dragon box down-under.

The new record for a so-called dragon box was achieved at Bonham’s Sydney outpost,. The blue and white colored object from the 16th or 17th century sold for more than 140 times the lower bound of its $1,000-2,000 presale estimate for a final price, with 22% buyer’s premium, of $146,400.

Early bidding saw heavy interest both in the room and on the telephones. However, the field soon thinned to two Chinese collectors. One was bidding online while the eventual winner was in the room.

“Despite not being in mint condition, the dragon box is very rare as it is thought to be a Ming Dynasty imperial piece,” said Yves Klein of Bonhams.

China-British business relations in good shape

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Chinese premier Li Keqiang pictured in London last week

The Chairman of the China British Business Council Lord Sassoon is eminently bullish about both the future of business relations between the two countries, and also, most importantly, on the future strength of the Chinese economy. Following Premier Li Keqiang’s visit he has just issued a statement.

“It has been a hectic three days but a few things are clear. First, the UK-China relationship is in very good shape. Premier Li could not have brought a stronger team of ministers and SOE chairmen to the UK. That was a clear statement but, also, his very open, personal and warm piece in TheTimes on Monday set a tone which ran through the visit.

“Second, business has been at the centre of the political talks. Anyone who heard Premier Li and Chancellor George Osborne on Tuesday night will have no doubt about this. Particular stress was placed on cooperation in services, but other areas were touched on, with the Premier, for example, encouraging the idea of UK-China joint ventures in third countries. And the Chancellor reminded us that the investment flow goes both ways.

“Third, Premier Li made very positive remarks about the Chinese economy. In his speech yesterday at the Mansion House, he made it clear that there would be no hard landing, saying that his government would make whatever policy adjustments were required. He assured us that the 7.5% growth target would be achieved. He also talked about his government wanting to see a level playing field for foreign companies operating in China.

So, it has been a very successful visit, with the CBBC and our tireless team at the centre of the action.”

The patently positive tone of the visit contradicts the doom-mongers predicting the collapse of the Chinese economy and the whole market there, by implication. It is clear that the Chinese government is not going to allow its own economy to move into reverse. It has the means to modestly correct the economy and will be unafraid to use them rather than risk any sort of collapse.

Hua Gallery represents the ‘cutting edge’ of contemporary Chinese art

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The Hua Gallery currently hosts the work of Lu Xinjian   Photo Paul Harris

London’s Hua Gallery shows the work of Chinese contemporary artists, both those who are established and those who are ‘bubbling under’. The world of Chinese contemporary art is frequently as confusing as it is diverse, and a gallery which can ‘filter’, in its own view, the vast field of Chinese modern art must be welcome.

In Mandarin ‘hua’ means to paint, or painting. The Gallery’s website, www.hua-gallery.com, professesthat it specialises ‘in the exciting and sometimes controversial space that is Chinese contemporary art . . . and exhibits cutting edge, stimulating works by established contemporary Chines artists, as well as emerging Chinese artists who are not as yet ‘discovered’ internationally.’

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Two of Lu Xinjian’s large abstracts hanging in the Hua Gallery Photo Paul Harris

The current exhibition of colourful abstracts is by Lu Xinjian (www.xinjianlu.com). Lu Xinjian was born in 1977 and currently lives and works in Shanghai. Right up to date in terms of context, her works are abstract renderings of the satellite view of various major cities in Europe, America and Asia provided by Google Earth. She first of all traces the Google image and then makes a stencil which is transferred onto canvas. Each city – whether London, new York, San Diego, Rome or Los Angeles – has its own distinct identity and appearance once translated into acrylic. Thereby she identifies and portrays the city’s unique identity, its DNA. It is a novel concept and gives her work a strain of consistency which can so benefit the modern artist. At one level, the works come over as large, powerful and intriguing images, at another they are meticulously detailed upon closer examination.

The Gallery enjoys a scenic location on Albion Riverside, on the south bank of the Thames just a stone’s throw from fashionable Chelsea. Appropriately enough, the residential building, where the 190 sq.m. gallery occupies the ground floor, was designed by the eminent international architects Foster & Partners. Exhibitions change three or four times a year and the gallery schedule is booked up through 2016. This autumn the Hua Gallery will be featuring the work of Chang Lei in an exhibition of very distinctive portraits entitled Tainted Beauty.

The current exhibition of Lu Xinjian’s work continues until October 20 2014

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Chinese ceramics feature in Dutch artist’s work

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Cruising the aisles at this year’s Affordable Art Fair on London’s Hampstead Heath (June 12-15), we came across the stand of Utrecht-based gallery/dealers DeKunstSalon (www.dekunstsalon.nl) and the work of Dutch artist Sasja Wagenaar (born 1959, studied Amsterdam).

We were, of course, much struck by her work, much of which appears to be inspired by Chinese ceramics. Her still-life acrylics of bowls, cups and saucers decorated with Chinese motifs are intricate and meticulously detailed, and clearly evidence her love for artists and art from the Far East.

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A view of the stand of DeKunstSalon at the Affordable Art Fair with work of Sasja Wagenaar left and right                             Photo Paul Harris

Unusual Chinese art image 28 The Gallery cat

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The gallery cat, Pumpkin, at The Coldingham Gallery (www.coldinghamgallery.co.uk) in the Scottish Borders, snoozes overlooked by a Republic era ceramic plaque and a jade copy of one of the terracotta warriors. The rug is Persian. For a while, Pumpkin was banned from the gallery after he deliberately toppled a 900 year-old a Song dynasty pot, irretrievably smashed. Now, we are glad to report, he has mended his ways.

Gan Daofu finds new ways with blue & white

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Gan Daofu’s work on display in London  Photograph by Paul Harris  (The central vase in the picture is not by Daofu)

A new and fresh approach to the making of blue and white porcelain is on show in London’s Kensington Gardens at Art Antiques London, which is on until June 18.

On the stand of New York Gallery FitzGerald Fine Arts (www.fitzgeraldfinearts.com) can be found the very fine work of contemporary artist and craftsman Gan Daofu. The ceramicist hails from Anhui province where he was born in 1960. FitzGeralds say that ‘he has emerged as leading voice in the development of contemporary Chinese ceramics.’ Interestingly, he has studied and works today in Jingdezhen, the ancient and formerly revered centre of the Chinese porcelain industry (revered at least by the Quianlong and Yongzheng Emperors and their predecessors). Daofu holds an MA from the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute and it is clear he has adopted successful the best of the ancient skills of earlier masters His porcelain is notable for its pure and startling whites and its brilliant glaze.

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Vase Observe Freedom (2013) Photo Paul Harris

Daofu started up one of the first contemporary ceramicist associations in China, Ice Blue Art. He is widely recognised as a pioneer of modern underglaze painting and is currently the art director of the Jingdezhen Academy of Blue and White Porcelain, as well as an instructor at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute. As Fitzgeralds put it, he ‘lavishes rich washes of pigment upon traditional baluster, ‘champion’ and square vase formats exploiting the splendour of Kangxi’s 17th century court to create a viv modern dialogue.’

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The works on show in London ranged between £3,000 and £8,500. The tall vase illustrated above Songs of Autumn is available for £8,500. Photo Paul Harris

Unusual Chinese art image 27 Maoist propaganda poster

socialist realism Mao poster Cultural Revn

A particularly powerful and impressive propaganda poster issued in China during the late 1970s, at the peak of the so-called Cultural Revolution. Such posters draw upon earlier Soviet Realism for their inspiration. Today, they are, of course, collectors’ pieces.This is a particularly effective example of the genre with Mao Tse Tung, heroic size, surrounded by his ‘children’ who variously display excitement, adoration and dedication.

Asian Art in London mounts preview in Kensington Gardens

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A few of the exhibits currently on show at the Asian Art in London preview.             Photo Paul Harris

The organisers of Asian Art in London have organised a preview of their increasingly successful event which takes place this year in the capital between October 30 and November 8.

The preview has been mounted in a special pavilion in Kensington Gardens within the Art Antiques London fair which runs from June 11 to 18th. Altogether, 22 of the exhibitors  in the autumn event have turned out to support the promotion with, it has to be said, some pretty spectacular exhibits. These are supplemented by some stunning artworks by Kyoto-based American artist Daniel Kelly, loaned by the renowned Tokyo-based Tolman Collection.

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Painting by Daniel Kelly forms the centrepiece of this wall in the pavilion.                 Photo by Paul Harris

As the success of Asian Art in London grows, it has been announced that the dates of next year’s autumn Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair are to be moved and will take place to coincide with Asian Art in London. It is believed that this move may bring more Asian (and particularly Chinese) visitors and exhibitors to the Olympia event. See our report on this year’s June event which, rather surprisingly, saw Chinese contemporary art selling well at its first exhibition at Olympia.

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The Asian Art in London pavilion at Art Antiques London

Photo Paul Harris

Chinese art old and new performs well at London Olympia

The Olympia International Art and Antiques Fair in London (June 5-15) saw several new exhibitors, some of whom were offering Asian art. There were diametrically opposed offerings by two Chinese specialists, Schutz Fine Art, who offered contemporary abstract paintings, and Ajassa Chinese Antiques.

SONY DSC Wang Xiaosong Soul of Emptiness

First time exhibitor Schutz Fine Art from Vienna mounted a show of the work of two contemporary Chinese artists, Wang Xiaosong and Hua Li. This was something of a new departure for an event not generally known for its contemporary art and even less so for Chinese contemporary offerings.

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Wang Xiaosong The Opening of China (right)

However, it appears that Schutz’s participation was successful. Two paintings were sold within the first 48 hours: works by Wang Xiaosong, who describes himself as creating “realistic manifestations of the abstract.”. First to sell was a large oil on canvas, Soul of Emptiness, which had a marked price of £28,000. it is understood that total sales of around £100,000 were achieved at the stand.

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Aldo Ajassa with some of his exhibits

Very different Chinese offerings were available from Turin-based dealers Ajassa Arte Antica Cinese. Well-established dealers in Chinese antiquities (the business opened its doors in 1980), owner Aldo Ajassa was on the stand where he explained that there were very significant collections of Chinese ware in his part of Italy. ‘There are many private collections, some very old and we are often able to buy.’ Certainly, his stand displayed some tantalising  pieces: we particularly like a pair of 18th century black ground vases with a superb glaze. Aldo said that he made very good sales during the first two days of the fair and that most were to new clients. He regarded the acquisition of new clients as a significant achievement of the event.

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