27 Apr Gallery:
If rocks, for the Chinese, are the bones of the world and contain part of its Qi – the life-energy – this rock, whose shape recalls the Chinese character Hu for tiger, contains the spirit of the animal and therefore evokes its symbolic qualities. Appreciation for rocks (gongshi) was already common under the Han (206 BC.-220 AD), but it was during the Song dynasty (960-1279) that a learned form of collecting started to be practised by aristocrats and chief of all officials-literati. In their studios they gathered natural materials full of Qi life-energy, an expression of their communion with nature and of their love for poetry, calligraphy, painting, and philosophy. Their intellectual and emotive relationship with the gongshi was so deep that they became cult objects, the subject of sublime poems and ineffable paintings.
The spirit of the scholar
Qing dynasty (19th c.)
Ink and colour on paper
124 by 77 cm
Published on the catalogues: “Glances from the Past” and “Objects telling their stories”
This painting is a significant example of an informal portrait, in that it depicts a gentleman in a context characterised by elements revealing his tastes and attitudes. Specifically, the objects in this scene accurately selected to underline the refined tastes of the scholar; notably the imposing dreamstone behind him, the exclusive brush container with scrolls and the small table carrying madewit a natural root, two bonsais, a pine tree and a bamboo.
Calligrapher and poet, well-know to the Chinese, Tang Yin was one of the most important Ming painters (15th c.) His paintings depict chiefly landscapes. His landscapes reflect Taoist philosophy, which considers human beings as small and insignificant, and only Nature as worthy of veneration. Since the Chinese believe that Heaven and Earth coexist in harmony, mountains (yang) are in perfect balance with water (yin) and, being quite high, they are closer to the sky, and thus to the Immortals’ abode.
This pen holder is carved from a box tree, a plant requiring many decades to reach this diameter and to acquire the strenght of its many knurls. It is much appreciated by the Chinese literati who interpret the uneven knobs as wrinkles of time passed and the spirit of the old tree.
Branches are snarled, mingled and overlapped in a spontaneous twist that is timeless work of art.
“The plum tree blossoming on the rock”
From The Study of the Ten Bamboos, vol. 4th, No.12
Artist: Kao Yang – Circa 1800
Woodblock print on paper
22.5 by 28 cm
Published on the catalogue “China, the Art of Rocks”
In China the art of sculpting tree roots is an ancient tradition. The influence of Taoism and its close relationship with nature deeply influenced Chinese art, which made nature its main theme. Sculpting wood, that is giving it an imagined shape, is totally different from sculpting a tree root, for in this case the root itself inspires the sculptor. The artist can remove, add or carve parts of the original, but his intervention cannot exceed 30% of the work.