Exhibition: How to Make the Universe Right – The Art of Priests and Shamans from Vietnam and Southern China

Exhibition dates: 30 July 2017 – 7 January 2018

‘How to Make the Universe Right’ presents a large selection of rare religious scrolls, ceremonial clothing and ritual objects of the Yao, Tày, Sán Dìu, Cao Lan, Sán Chay, Nùng and other populations of northern Vietnam and southern China. Each group has their own traditions of educating and initiating priests and shamans, who serve as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds and between the community and deities, in order to make the universe right through healing, balancing the forces of nature, and communicating with ancestors. The Yao’s practices are most prominently associated with Daoism, a religious and philosophical tradition of Chinese origin, while for the other peoples, Daoist beliefs are combined with aspects of Buddhism, Tantrism and Confucianism.

The works of art in the exhibition, most of which date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, provide the material foundation for the regional manifestations of religious practices. Examples in the exhibition include vibrantly coloured and intricately embroidered ritual robes and headdresses worn by priests, and a spectacular set of eighteen scrolls of elaborately painted deities, made for those engaged in the higher levels of initiation. The exhibition also features a display evoking the shrines constructed for ceremonies, a film on contemporary religious practices in the region, and a selection of scrolls highlighting their recent conservation and what this has revealed.

All of the works on view are part of the Barry and Jill Kitnick Collection generously donated by the Kitnicks to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in 2015.

For more information, visit the website of the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, USA.

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Event: Gender Twists in the Weaving, Embroidery and Structure of Shidong Miao Festival Costume – Talk by Iain Stephens

Event date: Saturday 14 October 2017, 2:15–4pm

Talk by Iain Stephens followed by a show and tell session – you are welcome to bring your own Shidong Miao pieces!

This talk will explore the seemingly endless creativity of the Shidong Miao employed on festival jackets. It will share insights into the sexuality of weaving and embroidery as well as essential pattern hierarchies.

Iain Stephens is a currently a master upholsterer, and previously a lecturer of biochemistry and English and tutor of Biblical Hebrew. Iain is an avid collector of Xhosa beadwork, Chinese ethnic minority costume and Taiwanese budaixi puppets. He presently lives on a narrowboat in Oxford.

Before the talk, a viewing at the Eastern Art Study room will display Miao textiles from the Ashmolean collection.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Center Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and the Education Centre (for the presentation)

Time: 2.15–3pm (viewing) and 3.10pm (presentation)

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.

Exhibition: From the Lands of Asia – The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection

pointe-a-calliere-from-the-lands-of-asia

Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 19 March 2017

Pointe-à-Callière Museum in Montreal, Canada, is currently showing the world premiere of From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition features some 400 pieces selected from among the finest objects in a collection of 5,000 works of Asian art amassed over fifty years by an American couple living in Paris. This collection – one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Chinese jade and Asian objects – includes stones, icons, textiles, ceramics, ivories, porcelains and clothing.

Sam and Myrna Myers acquired their first pieces in Switzerland in 1966 – objects mainly from the classical age (Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Orient). At the time, the couple was being advised by erudite and intellectual gallery owner Dr Rosembaum, who rubbed shoulders with such renowned writers as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann, and pioneers of surrealism like Hans Arp and Max Ernst.

Having taken this first step, the Myers then sought to enrich their collection. Everywhere they went, they frequented antique dealers, visited museums and went to auctions. From that point on, the collectors concentrated on East Asian pieces, creating unique and coherent ensembles, particularly in jade, silk, porcelain and other refined materials – some of which are described as having magical properties.

Among other elements of the exhibition, visitors are wrapped up in the world of textiles. Costumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries in the Myers Collection prove to be an inexhaustible source of knowledge about the customs and know-how of many societies.

In China, silk fabrics reflected the wearers’ wealth and social status. At court, for example, the colour and decorations of dress changed from dynasty to dynasty. In this colourful, silk-filled space, we are introduced to key characters, including the scholar, whom we learn about through a robe – a rare complete example of a garment of this type – and through accessories such as inkstones, which these experts in writing would retain for their entire lives. From Japan, we discover the kimono, considered by some to be the most elegant garment in the world. We also cross paths with the samurai and their clothing, adapted for wearing armour. Also in Japan, we learn about the Noh theatre, with its actors dressed in sumptuous silk costumes. And we imagine the lives of Uzbek merchants and riders crisscrossing the steppes, clad in flamboyantly colourful garments that take our breath away. A brilliant finale to this journey to East Asia through the works of the Sam and Myrna Myers Collection.

If you can’t make it to Canada to see this exhibition in person, there is a catalogue available.

For more information, visit the website of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, Montreal, Canada.

Event: My Dream of Heritage – Chinese Traditional Handicrafts Design Exhibition

oxford-chinese-innovation-club-my-dream-of-heritage

Event date: 24–26 November 2016 (see times below)

The Oxford Chinese Innovation Club are delighted to invite twenty-six craftsmen – heirs of China’s state-level intangible cultural heritage – to show their works this weekend at Hertford College, Oxford. More than ten categories of Chinese traditional handicrafts will be exhibited, including lacquerware, cloisonné, wood carving, batik and many others. Aimed at bringing the Chinese dream of cultural heritage to an international audience, this exhibition will be an excellent opportunity to get a taste of traditional Chinese art and sense the spirit of Chinese craftspeople.

At our exhibition, you will be able to:

  • Watch live demonstrations of handicrafts being made by top Chinese craftspeople
  • Make traditional handicrafts yourself, such as batik, kites, dough figurines and rabbit gods
  • Watch live performances of some of the most typical forms of traditional Chinese performance, such as Guqin, Kun opera, Peking opera, and marionette
  • Have a chance to purchase your favourite handcrafts, which combine the finest traditional handicrafts with contemporary design

Come and join us to discover the beauty of traditional Chinese art and be ready to get inspired!

Opening ceremony: 56 pm, Friday 25 November (refreshments will be served before the ceremony)

Exhibition (drop by any time to visit the exhibition):

2–4 pm Thursday 24 November

2–9 pm Friday 25 and Saturday 26 November

For more information, visit this event’s Eventbrite page.

Exhibition: Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art

hangzhou-triennial-of-fiber-art

Exhibition dates: 25 August – 25 October 2016

Hangzhou, an ancient cultural city and a modern leisure city, and home to the high-profile G20 Summit in 2016, a rare opportunity and a driving force to integrate development from different aspects. On such a grand occasion, the 2nd Hangzhou Triennial of Fibre Art is being held jointly by Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture, Publicity Department of CPC Hangzhou Municipal Committee and China Academy of Art.

This internationally famous exhibition is also a high-grade contemporary art brand of Hangzhou, as Hangzhou is home to silk as well as being the capital of fibre. The exhibition brings together fiber art by 60 artists from 20 countries and regions, many of whom are from the participating countries of G20 Summit. The exhibition presents a global conversation from the great dimensions of time and space on the significance of fibre art in terms of its history, humanity, current social practices, the environment, the internet and new technology. The world’s attention will be focused in Hangzhou again, and Hangzhou will show the world its unique, profound and charming culture and art.

Weaving & We, the theme of the 2nd Hangzhou Triennial of Fibre Art, is both the focus of the exhibition and the starting point of creation. Stemming from the origin ‘weaving’, the exhibits go far beyond what we know of ‘weaving’ in our daily life. The timeliness and repetition of ‘weaving’ symbolise maternal reproductive power that derives from the mother’s original creative source given by nature, and constantly promotes the evolution of human civilization. ‘Weaving’ is by no means a ready-made object, but an ever-changing action and initiative.

As long as there are human beings, there will be continuous weaving. At the same time, Weaving & We tells the secret of mutual promotion of the technique and the way. I weave, therefore I am. ‘I weave’ refers to the technique, while ‘I am’ refers to the way. The way is in the technique and lies only in the technique. I weave, therefore I am. In this way, it points out the theme that artistic works need to go back to the origin and essence of life. This event is divided into four sections featuring curatorial research and artists’ works echoing the theme. The sections are ‘needles and proverbs’, ‘body and identity’, ‘weaving and form’, and ‘scene and phenomenon’.

 

For more information, visit the website of the Hangzhou Triennial of Fibre Art.

Exhibition: From the Imperial Theater – Chinese Opera Costumes of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Met Museum - From the Imperial Theater

Exhibition dates: open until 9 October 2016

Drawn entirely from The Met’s collection, this exhibition in New York examines these luxury textiles from artistic and technical points of view. It is organized in two rotations. The first focuses on costumes used in dramas based on historical events, and the second will feature costumes from plays derived from legends and myths. The presentation showcases eight robes, each of which was created for a specific role – court lady, official, general, monk, nun and immortal. A set of album leaves faithfully depicting theatrical characters wearing such robes is also displayed.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries witnessed a flowering of Chinese drama. Under the patronage of the Qing court (1644–1911), performances – including the ‘Peking Opera’ – filled the Forbidden City in Beijing. A form of traditional Chinese theatre, Peking Opera was developed fully by the mid-nineteenth century, and because of the form’s minimal stage settings and the importance of exaggerated gestures and movements, costume played an unusually significant role.

This exhibition includes superb examples with interior markings indicating their use in court productions.

For more information, visit the website of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA.

Exhibition: Red – Culture, History and Craftsmenship

MEAA - Red

Exhibition dates: 25 June 2016 – 12 February 2017

The colour red has a strong affiliation with China and has played an important role in Chinese culture for centuries. The colour remains significant to the Chinese today. It is the primary colour on the flag of People’s Republic of China, and is seen everywhere during the Lunar New Year.

Most objects in the collection at the Museum of East Asian Art are of Chinese origin. Many are decorated with red colours, including ceramics, lacquerware, prints and paintings. This exhibition presents the materials used to produce red colours, explains the symbolism of the colour red and explores the rapid advancement of red wares during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Textile Tidbits: Handmade on the Silk Road

BBC - Handmade on the Silk Road

For today’s Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about a handweaver in north west China, from their recent mini series ‘A Day in the Life of Three Master Craftsmen’.

The Uyghur community in north west China have been making Atlas silk for thousands of years. Mattursun Islam and his family are continuing the tradition, using a combination of handmade techniques and mechanised looms. From designing the patterns to colouring, dyeing and weaving the thread, this film follows each stage in absorbing detail. We also get an engaging glimpse into how their family and working life are closely connected. With rival companies often copying his designs, Mattursan is proud of his reputation.

Subsequent episodes in this mini series explore the lives of a wood carver and a potter.

To watch this programme online, visit the BBC Four website.

 

Exhibition: Pure Land – Images of Immortals in Chinese Art

Ashmolean - Pure Land

Exhibition dates: 1 March – 2 October 2016

Pure Land is the name for the realm of the Buddha and other deities depicted in paintings since the Tang dynasty (AD 618–907).

Pure Land Buddhism is particularly associated with the cave temples at Dunhuang in northwest China, near the eastern end of the Silk Route.

During China’s war with Japan in the 1940s, many artists took refuge in Sichuan province, and from there some journeyed to Dunhuang and painted copies of the famous cave temple murals. This display shows rare examples of their work alongside other images of popular deities, particularly Guanyin, in paintings, textiles and porcelain.

For more information about the exhibition, visit the website of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK.

To read a fascinating and detailed blog post about the exhibition, visit the blog of the Eastern Art department at the Ashmolean Museum.

Textile Tidbits: Taming the Dragons on a Chinese Imperial Dragon Robe

CBL C 1051, detail

The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, recently published a blog post all about the process of conserving a Chinese imperial dragon robe. It makes for fascinating reading, and includes lots of detailed photographs of the initial analysis of the textile and the subsequent conservation work involved.

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty collected eight Chinese dragon robes; it is thought that several came from the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. These magnificent robes were once worn by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911, the last ruling dynasty of China. The robes tell a story of a vanished court life and were worn for important rituals as well as everyday occasions.

Over the last few years, a rolling programme of conservation has been undertaken to conserve all the dragon robes within the collection, to allow an annual rotation to coincide with the library’s celebration of the Chinese New Year. For anyone thinking of planning a visit, the dragon robe case is in the first floor ‘Arts of the Book’ exhibition gallery.

The blog focuses on the conservation of one of the three imperial yellow robes, which are of the highest quality yellow silk and feature exquisite embroidery.

To read more about this conservation work, visit the blog of the Chester Beatty Library conservation team.