Words and Images in Chinese Culture

February 14– May 7, 2017

 

Words and images are two inextricably connected aspects of the arts in China. With the rise of the scholar-artist class known as the literati in the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), composing poetry and making paintings developed into standard activities of the cultivated lifestyle. The two practices often inform and inspire each other: a painting is regarded as a silent poem, and a poem a painting in sound.

This installation explores the longstanding relationship between literary and visual expressions in Chinese culture. A work of art becomes the site where poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seals are integrated to create a holistic aesthetic experience. There are three sections on view: Mountains and Rivers that exhibit the highly esteemed genre of landscape; Flowers and Plants that showcase botanical motifs that are rich in symbolism; and Miniaturized Landscape that introduce the handscroll and fan painting formats.

The installation is part of a collaborative project with the East Asian Languages & Literatures Department. Students taking the Spring 2017 course, EAL 237 Chinese Poetry and the Other Arts, study the works on display and choose poems to pair with the paintings. For their final project, they curate their own installations of this selection of art objects on digital platforms, using alternative interpretive frameworks.

 

Image: ZHU Xiuli, born China, 1938. Listening to the Moon, 1986. Ink and color on paper. Gift of Joan Lebold Cohen, class of 1954, and Jerome A. Cohen.