Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World by David Clarke

0357139fa33071f.jpeg Author David Clarke
Isbn 9789888083060
File size 3 Mb
Year 2011
Pages 272
Language English
File format PDF
Category art


Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World Negotiating Alterity in Art and Its Historical Interpretation David Clarke This publication has been generously supported by the Sir Y. K. Pao Publication Fund for publications in Chinese art and architecture. Hong Kong University Press 14/F Hing Wai Centre 7 Tin Wan Praya Road Aberdeen Hong Kong © Hong Kong University Press 2011 ISBN 978-988-8083-06-0 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed and bound by Paramount Printing Company Limited, Hong Kong, China This book is dedicated to my brother, Phil Contents Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 Part I Trajectories: Chinese artists and the West Chapter 1: Chitqua: A Chinese artist in eighteenth-century London 15 Chapter 2: Cross-cultural dialogue and artistic innovation: Teng Baiye and Mark Tobey 85 Part II Imported genres Chapter 3: Iconicity and indexicality: The body in Chinese art 115 Chapter 4: Abstraction and modern Chinese art 133 Part III Returning home: Cites between China and the world Chapter 5: Illuminating facades: Looking at postcolonial Macau 167 Chapter 6: The haunted city: Hong Kong and its urban others in the postcolonial era 189 Notes 213 Index 253 Acknowledgements Certain material presented in this book was previously published, in a different form, in other locations. Thanks are due to the editors and copyright holders of those publications for allowing that material to be used as the basis for aspects of the present work. An earlier version of Chapter 2 appeared as ‘Cross-Cultural Dialogue and Artistic Innovation: Teng Baiye and Mark Tobey’, in Shanghai Modern 1919–1945, ed. Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Ken Lum and Zheng Shengtian (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2005), 84–103 and 417–18 (published in association with the exhibition of the same name held at the Museum Villa Stuck, Munich). An earlier version of Chapter 3 appeared as ‘Indexicality and Iconicity: The Body in Chinese Art’, Semiotica 155, no. 1/4 (2005): 229–48 (published by Mouton De Gruyter, Berlin and New York). Chapter 4 is an extended and revised version of an original text published in the volume Discrepant Abstraction, ed. Kobena Mercer (London: Iniva [the Institute of International Visual Arts] in association with MIT Press, 2006), 74–93, as part of the series Annotating Art’s Histories. An earlier version of Chapter 5 appeared as ‘Illuminating Facades: Looking at Post-Colonial Macau’, Journal of Visual Culture 6, no. 3 (2007): 395–419. An earlier version of Chapter 6 appeared as Chapter 3 of Hong Kong Culture: Word and Image, ed. Kam Louie (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 41–54. Research on which this book is based was made possible by financial support from the University of Hong Kong. In particular I would like to x Acknowledgements acknowledge support by HKU’s Committee on Research and Conference Grants (‘Chinese and Western Art: Comparisons and Interactions’, 2007) and the Hsu Long Sing Research Fund, Faculty of Arts, HKU (‘Contemporary Chinese Art and Its Changing Urban Context’, 2003 and 2005). Thanks also to all who have helped me in the course of my work on this project by providing advice, practical assistance, research materials and information, or images and permission to reproduce them. I have tried where possible to acknowledge such help at an appropriate point in the notes, or in captions to the images, but I hope anyone whose name has escaped mention in those places will accept my sincere apologies. Thanks to Michael Duckworth, Dennis Cheung, and all the staff at HKU Press for the advice and support they have given me at all stages of this project. A special thanks to those whom I am not in a position to mention by name, the anonymous reviewers of the book manuscript for HKU Press, whose support and suggestions were of great help to me. Introduction In recent years Chinese contemporary art has received extensive exposure in the international art arena. The rise of China on the world stage, following the economic liberalization and opening-up of the Deng Xiaoping era, has been one obvious major factor behind this transformation. As the People’s Republic becomes increasingly integrated within the global capitalist economy it is natural that individuallymade, high-end cultural products from that country should enter the international marketplace alongside the many mass-produced commodities which originate there. Without giving in to an economistic reductionism we can allow that cultural power tends to follow shifts in economic and political power, as it did for instance when New York came to replace Paris as the perceived capital of modern art in the post–Second World War period. It is therefore unsurprising that greater cultural prominence for China should be a consequence of the growth of its gross domestic product. If we look more closely at the process of recent Chinese art’s internationalization, however, we will soon discover limits to the explanatory power of broad-brushstroke economic analysis. Much of recent Chinese art’s early exposure in the international arena came not so much as a consequence of a smooth extension of the logic of the marketplace to China but as a result of the interruption of that process which occurred when political opposition spilled onto Chinese streets between April and 2 Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World June 1989 (most notably of course in Tiananmen Square), leading to a period of cultural repression which all but eliminated opportunities for public exhibition in China of the new art which had been emerging from the middle of the 1980s. That art, which often took a more cynical and disaffected turn in the early 1990s, could only be properly seen in overseas locations for most of the decade following 1989, and thus for many artists                    such as Xu Bing, even responded to the domestic repression of intellectual and artistic dissent by moving overseas to North America, Europe or Australia, creating art in foreign locations as well as simply exhibiting it in such sites. Despite the familiarity which Western art audiences have developed with contemporary Chinese art (and particularly with the work of the more established amongst those artists who have been living outside of China for some time, such as Cai Guoqiang or Huang Yong Ping), this has not yet led to a sustained curiosity about earlier phases of the Chinese artistic response to the modern world. International awareness of the history of Chinese modernist art remains scant, and although European and American art museums are now often willing to make space in their temporary exhibition galleries for new art from China or other nonWestern locations, their permanent collections and displays of the history of modernism remain determinedly Western-centred. A whole century of Chinese visual engagement with the experience of modernity remains largely unknown to international audiences, and Euro-American narratives of artistic modernity remain hegemonic both in textbooks and on museum walls.1 The implicit assumption is still that the Western story of artistic modernism remains the paradigmatic one, against which the art of other cultures must be calibrated, often to be found lacking in some way. Rethinking the history of artistic modernism in a way that makes clear the plurality of trajectories through the modern experience that artists in different parts of the globe have taken is a major task for art history at this point in time. Undertaking such a task should not lead to a simple fragmentation of art historical narratives however, since despite the different experience artists on different continents have had of the modern experience it still remains true that in some sense they are experiencing the Introduction ‘same’ objective modernization process, given that an enhanced degree of                 and imperial conquest had forged links between cultures even before this process was intensified by the development of industrial capitalism — although people from different parts of the world were at different ends of the stick as it were, it was still the same stick. As a better, less Western-centred, understanding of artistic modernism emerges we will undoubtedly see an increasing pluralism in the writing of art history, but this will be the proliferation of a variety of perspectives from which art history as a whole is understood, rather than a dividing up of art history into a series of fragmented local narratives without the kind of address to each other that can uncover aporias and blind spots. None of these perspectives will be able to claim any monopoly on explanatory power, or even any priority in advance: each will need to be in dialogue with other perspectives to argue its claims, each will need to be prepared explicitly to talk across differences, and each will have a concern with more than local artistic experience. It should be clear that I consider the development of purely national art                  hegemony in the writing of modern art history. Nationalism is itself one of the most characteristic ideologies of the modern world, a part of the   !     !   tool with which to do art historical work, and it is a particularly unhelpful tool for constructing an art history with a more global address. National art historical narratives with their emphasis on cultural distinctness can actually serve to entrench Western hegemony by default through their failure to develop a challenge to Euro-American accounts on their own turf. (Clement Greenberg’s once-dominant formalist narrative of the United States taking the baton of artistic modernism from Europe is blatantly nationalistic itself, requiring an aspect blindness concerning the art it discusses to construct its sense of continuity).2 They can remain parochial and thus be successfully ignored beyond the borders of the nation in which they are being propagated. Elsewhere I have attempted more explicitly to provide an introduction to modern Chinese art for those who have a prior knowledge of modern 3 4 Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World  !    !      situation, and the present study can be seen as also offering a bridge into the critical understanding of art in modern China for those coming from an understanding of Western art, but by a different strategy.3 The six chapters which make up this volume are studies of modern Chinese art in a global frame, attempting to demonstrate the impossibility of comprehending Chinese art by a study of what has taken place within the nation’s borders alone. While hoping to present material that will be new to specialists in the study of modern Chinese art, and thus to contribute to the development of scholarship in this area, the very fact that the book’s argument will involve attention to places and to idioms of art-making which are European or American means that there will be plenty of opportunities for those whose knowledge base is in Western art to gain access to the discussion. The approach taken in this book is one which emphasizes the connection between cultures, and sometimes it even finds reason to celebrate that interconnectedness. Implicitly, its approach is in conflict with more narrowly-conceived nationalist or culturally-essentialist accounts of Chinese art which emphasize its absolute differentness from the art of other cultures, or which see strength as coming from within, from engagement with inherited cultural traditions, and view contact with other cultures as only leading to the threat of deracination or weakening. Cultures are here thought of as always plural in their nature, dynamic entities that are constitutively implicated with each other, that are always drawing strength from their encounter with the other, even if that encounter may be over-shadowed by relations of power that cannot be ignored. While recognizing that cultural differences are a part of felt experience I do not see the boundaries between cultures as innate, as something art historical analysis can unproblematically assume as a given, but rather view them as !      "      liable to shift or even dissolve. In modern and contemporary experience a sense of cultural difference is not simply residual, something that can be attributed to the survival of inherited traditions — difference can emerge in places where it is least expected and can be an attribute of the novel as much as of the traditional. Identities and new cultural forms can be fabricated from ‘foreign’ material as well as from that which is inherited, Introduction      ! #                 contemporary purpose as the former. This is so in part because even the most ‘traditionalist’ of Chinese artists in the modern period would be aware of the potential availability of imported modes of image-making, would be working in a cultural space that had become in some sense heterogeneous because of the presence of foreign culture, and would as a  !         an awareness of it. Rather than attempting to offer an all-embracing overview of modern Chinese art’s encounter with the world in this study, I have instead elected to present a series of separate in-depth treatments of particular themes. This multi-focal approach, eschewing the illusion of comprehensive                      be done, enables me to approach the topic of modern Chinese art from a variety of perspectives which, although distinct, nevertheless often overlap at the level of the material they address. Broadly chronological in their overall arrangement, the six chapters are divided into three separate thematic sections, with the focus of attention being progressively widened as we move from section to section. The first of the three sections deals with the cross-cultural trajectories of individual Chinese artists, with each of the two chapters featuring a different artist who travelled from China to the West and then returned. With recent artistic émigrés from China having already received a great deal of attention in the English-language literature, I am deliberately choosing to present examples that can help historicize the discussion.4 I will be looking at cases from much earlier periods where the possibilities for overseas travel were less extensive and the mutual familiarity of cultures less well developed. Although travel was more arduous in the era before air passenger transport was developed, in fact both the early cases discussed here are of artists who experienced acceptance and even success overseas to a degree that was certainly not enjoyed by all their later counterparts. Indeed both cases will show in their different ways that it is                 #   cross-cultural experience is often felt. 5 6 Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World $               Chinese art’s engagement with the world, at least when told as a narrative of artists’ own personal encounters with other cultures, since the links established between artistic traditions through the migration of objects would extend that story back to a considerably earlier era. Fittingly, perhaps, since much recent discussion has focused on the role of the market as mediating contemporary Chinese art’s encounter with Western audiences, I begin with the case of an artist who worked explicitly for a foreign market. This was the portrait modeller known to us as Chitqua who in the latter part of the eighteenth century kept a shop in Canton (modern-day Guangzhou) catering to Western traders, and who was to travel to London for several years from 1769 in pursuance of his trade. Despite the pioneering nature of Chitqua’s trans-continental trip, the present study is the first attempt to document his life and examine his oeuvre in any comprehensive way. The second example, discussed in the following chapter, belongs to the earlier part of the twentieth century when a number of Chinese artists began to seek out formal education in Western modes of art-making. Such education was to become available within China itself, and a number of artists were also to travel to Japan in search of training, but several of the                 Lin Fengmian and Xu Beihong, were to gain their training in Europe. Unlike most but not all of those overseas students, Teng Baiye, the subject of this chapter, was to gain his education in North America. Like Chitqua in being a sculptor, he obtained his training in Seattle, spending time in other American and European cities as well before returning to China. Whereas Chitqua’s travel took place in an era before the full development of theories of race and the more sustained phase of Western imperialist ambition in East Asia, both of which are largely phenomena of the nineteenth century, Teng’s trip occurred in an age when Chinese artists were more reflexively concerned with issues of national identity. Awareness of the military power of Western nations — most graphically demonstrated in the two Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century which both ended in humiliating treaties involving territorial concession — was one of the most powerful spurs to the development of nationalist feeling in China, and led in the long run to the end of dynastic rule and the Introduction establishment of the Republic of China following the Revolution of 1911. A citizen of a nation state, rather than a subject of an emperor as Chitqua had been, Teng attempted to introduce national themes in his art even as he looked to Western artistic means to do so. Aware of the power of Western modes of representation (this heightened sense of cultural relativity which followed the intensification of crosscultural contact is a defining feature of modern artistic culture in both China and the West), Teng nevertheless had allegiances to inherited Chinese traditions as well. These were expressed more through his painting        #     in this study instead of one of the more widely known artists of that era is that his knowledge of Chinese brushwork and its accompanying aesthetic was to be passed on to Western audiences in both China and North America. An aesthetic ‘exporter’ as well as ‘importer’, he was to meet and           %  !  artists, Mark Tobey. Tobey’s breakthrough to his mature artistic idiom, it will be argued here, was indebted to the lessons in Chinese brushwork he received from Teng. Even the story of modern Western art, then, let alone that of modern Chinese art, is not complete without considering the contribution of Chinese artists who operated in the international sphere. In the second section of the book the focus shifts from a consideration of the movement of individual artists between cultures to an examination of  !      art. Here it is more a matter of the transit of visual ideas than the transit of people, although the latter was of course implicated in the former since artists who had studied or spent time overseas were often the ones best placed to appreciate the potential of imported modes. A major aim of this part of the book is to show the selective and active nature of Chinese art’s response to the possibilities of Western ways of making images. To talk   &'*              to conceive of the latter as both passive and belated in the process, and this was certainly not the case. Only certain aspects of the Western artistic heritage, of both modern and earlier times, were to prove of use within modern Chinese visual culture, and when employed they were invariably adapted and made to serve a local function. 7 8 Chinese Art and Its Encounter with the World %                     with successive chronological periods, the first focusing (like Chapter 2) on the pre–Second World War Republican era, while Chapter 4 will consider the post-war era, shortly after the beginning of which, in 1949, the People’s Republic came into being. While Chapter 3 will focus primarily on art made within mainland China, discussion in the subsequent chapter will note the contribution of artists based in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which because of their separate historical trajectories have had a markedly different encounter with the international art world. The relative cultural closure of the People’s Republic during the Maoist years made Hong Kong, Taiwan and the international diaspora important sites of Chinese cultural development, but even in the less open and pluralistic environment of Mao’s China art was still in touch with the global frame to some extent.5 Artists were able to learn from Russian teachers in the early Communist                 +  ; <  and Fu Baoshi did, for instance) on exchange visits to other quite culturally different Communist states. Nevertheless, it was only outside mainland China, and primarily in Hong Kong and Taiwan, that Chinese artists of that era were really conscious in a major way of the challenges posed by making art for an audience that, potentially at least, was international in nature. The theme of Chapter 3 is the reception of the nude as a subject in modern Chinese art. Whereas certain of the subjects of Western art, such as landscape and portraiture, have direct or fairly direct counterparts in premodern Chinese art, the nude was almost entirely absent in earlier Chinese visual culture. For this reason the study of its Chinese reception offers a particularly useful test case, and this novel subject will be shown to have            was based on something more than its sheer novelty, and had to do with its ability to offer a challenge of a fundamental kind to inherited modes of image-making, being implicated in a whole new approach to art-making — working from life — that was being introduced to China at that time and                     was conducted. In confronting existing practices of art-making and art education in this comprehensive way the nude proved a controversial subject in China in a way it no longer was in Europe by that date. Introduction The second Western genre to be considered is abstraction. Unlike the nude, one can hardly call this a ‘subject’ of art (since it implies definitionally an absence of subject matter), and hence it offers a particularly complex and interesting case to consider. As absent from earlier Chinese art as the nude, the specifically modern notion of abstraction took a much longer                   historically established subject. Indeed, abstract art was more or less completely absent from Chinese art of the Republican era: no use could be found for that particular European mode of art-making by even the most ambitious artists working at that specific historical conjuncture. It was only in a later quite different moment when Western abstract art had itself changed considerably (partly as a result of East Asian philosophical and  '          !*    Teng) that it became possible for a cross-fertilization to occur. Delayed in coming, this artistic interchange was nevertheless to be of profound importance for the development of later Chinese modernism, even if much of the Chinese art to result from the encounter was not itself to be purely abstract. Whereas the nude had offered a front-on challenge to inherited modes of art-making, and was often employed by artists who were consciously adopting styles that refer back to Western precedents, the similarly alien mode of abstraction served by contrast to revitalize and extend the possibilities of the Chinese brushwork heritage (as European expressionism had for some artists in the earlier part of the century), even if the problem of accommodating that which was obviously foreign in origin had to be dealt with by artists. =   !         perspectives of cities. Here I have pulled back to take a broader view than that afforded by the themes of the earlier sections, although this pulling back is only at the level of the contextual frame being used to interpret the art, and is not in any sense a pulling back from the art itself. As in the earlier parts of the book there will again be the attention to individual objects and images which is at the core of all art historical analysis — the hope is simply that the adoption of different contextual perspectives in different sections of the same study will allow a richer understanding than could be gained from the unrelenting application of a single monocular viewpoint. A broader perspective is not assumed to be better or more 9

Author David Clarke Isbn 9789888083060 File size 3 Mb Year 2011 Pages 272 Language English File format PDF Category Art Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare This book examines Chinese art from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. By means of a series of closely-focused case studies, often introducing previously marginalized aspects of Chinese visual culture, it analyzes Chinese art’s encounter with the world, arguing that we cannot fully understand modern Chinese art without taking this larger global context into account.     Download (3 Mb) Fragmenting Modernisms: Chinese Wartime Literature, Art, and Film, 1937-49 Cosmopolitanism In Mexican Visual Culture Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline Total Modernity and the Avant-Garde in Twentieth-Century Chinese Art Film Theory: The Basics Load more posts

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