Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shanghai Museum

Anne Lykes

On Tuesday afternoon, March 3, our Contemporary Modern Chinese Art
class visited the painting galleries of the Shanghai Museum.  This was
my first visit to the well-know museum in People's Square, and upon
approaching the building I was immediately struck by the imposing and
somewhat intimidating façade.  Ancient-looking stone sculptures
surround the building, which was designed to look like an ancient
bronze cooking vessel called a "ding."
           Upon entered the museum, we were immediately ushered
straight to the painting galleries.  The space itself was uncluttered
and had a streamlined aesthetic.  Once I started examining the
paintings more closely, I decided that this calm setting suited the
paintings themselves.  Most of the works of art portrayed serene,
tranquil images using a muted palate and pen and ink.  The works
themselves were painted on either panels, most of which remained in
tact with their original screens, or on scrolls.  The works on scrolls
in particular employed many storytelling techniques and helped to
convey a progression of events to the reader.
           Observing the change in style from the traditional
paintings to the more modern and those of the Shanghai School provided
great insight into the tradition of Chinese painting as a whole.  To
the untrained eye (me—however in this situation I had the great
advantage of an extremely knowledgeable professor as my guide), the
similarities between these paintings seemed to stick out more than the
differences: all use a similar palette, what one might think of as
pastel or water-based colors; their display on panel or scroll
remained consistent; and, in a general sense, the subject of the
natural world and all that it contains run strongly throughout the
entire gallery.  The later paintings, however, begin to reflect a
break with traditional Chinese painting and signal a new tradition in
Chinese art.  The later works have a much tighter style, and often
utilize bolder hues.  The artists showcased their abilities through
skillful brushwork and articulate detailing and began to pave the way
for a new kind of painting in China.

No comments: