Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A trip to China - its all in the detail.

I have just arrived back from an awe-inspiring cultural trip to China, one week in Shanghai and two weeks in Beijing. Exploring the major cultural sites and institutions; mainly museums, galleries and some of the must do tourist sites. The main focus of my trip was to absorb the styling and master craftsmanship as manifested in their cultural heritage - for which they are envied the world over. 
Detail of beautifully painted vase below.
First on the agenda was the archetypal, cultural heritage products; artefacts carefully selected and stylishly exhibited in cabinets, matching the well funded museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The best of their ceramics, jade and bamboo carving, including calligraphy and the spectacular Chinese Seals,all breathtakingly beautiful - all of which will be showcased on this blog over the next few weeks. 

I could only spend so much time looking at each object – a click of the button, the camera set to capture every detail possible – to be viewed more closely, once scanned into my computer.  In the comfort of my home, with purpose; inspirational intent as needed and desired. I am therefore equipped to share some of these chosen and photographed objects with you- showcasing their forms, shapes and surfaces.

Surface decoration at its best.
Every object you observe is loaded with detail, skillfully carved, painted and or crafted to the highest degree of excellence possible. A trip to the museum and or a gallery became an exhausting experience; one work after the other displayed more complex and more detailed craftsmanship.  There is only so much your brain can absorb, especially when you are confronted by the best of the best on display in a particular style, and especially when you are particularly interested and fascinated by meticulously conceived and masterly crafted products.  

One gets completely drawn into the product, into the surface; the motifs and the techniques and methods applied to create the object - a visually draining experience that calls for regular trips to have tea (tea shop left). It is therefore necessary to stagger visits to the exhibits in terms of their awe-inspiring and absorbing qualities. Having Hylton Nel as a travelling partner made the experience that much more spectacular and informative; his insightful comments providing a much needed historical and technological context.
Hylton Nel at Liulichang Street.

I love Shanghai - early evening. Photo taken from The Bund.
Later. Photo taken from The Bund.
Even later when misty. Photo taken from The Bund. 

The size of the buildings, the pavements and the masses of people, everything is bigger and dare I say better. Construction is seen everywhere. Out with the old and in with the new – such is the nature of progress and increased wealth. 

Even the National Museum of China in Beijing was recently renovated, all 65000 square meters of it – finally opening its doors to the public in 2011. The major exhibits include Ceramics (carefully selected), Jade, bamboo carving and calligraphy including a hall of artworks to instill patriotism and celebrate the revolutionary past – socialist realism at its best. 
Socialist Realism.

Fascinating to say the least – massive paintings are dwarfed by the enormity and scale of the space - adding to the dramatic nature of the display. You are in fact greeted by monumental sculptures of Mao and leading political heroes that dominate the massive foyer – exhibited to great effect, commanding respect and obedience.
Mao and political heroes in the foyer.
The gardens are spectacular in that they provide residents with an opportunity to escape their intimate spaces and absorb all things green, in true Chinese fashion, carved and nurtured ‘bonsai style’ to perfection – once again to instill order. 
Fat prince at play in the park.

Every effort is being made to create green belts, next to highways and on pavements – everywhere possible. Trees are carefully and meticulously shaped and formed, spaced evenly apart, with cropped hedges beneath to create sculpted planes of green belts.
Up to mischief playing with discarded cigarettes. 

Very impressive indeed.  I trust you find the images on this post inspirational and hope it will inspire to view future entries on my trip to china – up close, every detail of every awe-inspiring visual experience.