Exhibition paints picture of China’s modernity in imperial era
How did modern ways of making paintings and prints—from mechanical reproduction to creative appropriation—emerge from the ink painter’s studio, enter the public sphere, and help shape people’s identities and lives in China during the late imperial era?
China’s Imperial Modern: The Painter’s Craft examines this question in an exciting new exhibition highlighting objects and artworks from the University of Alberta Museums’ Mactaggart Art Collection.
Lisa Claypool, curator of the Mactaggart Art Collection, says by considering ink paintings, woodblock-printed books, sketchbooks, and artist’s tools such as inkstones and inksticks from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the exhibit explores how brush-and-ink painting left the domain of the educated elite to circulate in the art market, at the imperial court, and throughout what would soon become the nation of China. She adds the exhibition demonstrates how the visual pleasures, confusion and anxieties typically associated in the West with the modern moment of the early 20th century also typify the visual culture of China’s late imperial era.
“Every day we encounter copies, fakes, simulations, models—sometimes we’re copycats, sometimes we’re wonderfully original,” said Claypool. “This exhibition asks us to reflect on the ways that painters in China 100 to 300 years ago encountered the same issues in their art practice.”
Claypool curates the exhibit in collabor-ation with students in art and design and East Asian studies enrolled in the seminar Imperial China’s Culture of the Copy. In addition to other public programs, student co-curators will be providing free guided tours of The Painter’s Craft every Saturday beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The Mactaggart Art Collection is composed of more than 1,000 rare works of art, including court robes, works of calligraphy, paintings, engravings, and other artifacts from ancient and modern Asia. It was generously donated to the U of A in 2005 by Edmonton philanthropists Sandy and Cécile Mactaggart.
The exhibit runs until July 14 in Gallery A of the TELUS Centre on the U of A’s main campus.