Ten Thousand Saplings: The Birth of Modern Chinese Art in the Republic Period (1912-49)

8 December 2021, 3:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Ms Yuexiu Shen, Art Gallery of South Australia
Mr. Russell Kelty, Art Gallery of South Australia

Session Moderators

Mr. Russell Kelty, Art Gallery of South Australia

Session Speakers

Ms Yuexiu Shen, Art Gallery of South Australia
Dr Alex Burchmore, University of Sydney
Dr Yin Cao, Art Gallery of NSW

The fall of the Qing dynasty had a profound impact on artists throughout China. In spite of the turmoil of the Republic period (1912-1949) artists across a diversity of media embraced the newfound freedoms to innovate in their respective fields. Artists reacted to this dynamic shift and transformed their practice embracing new subjects and styles and at times integrating western artistic conventions. These works were no longer created to service the Empire but instead created to suit the interests of private collectors in China and abroad. This panel looks into the porcelain industry in Jingdezhen during the 1920s, the Woodcut Movement of the 1930s-1940s, as well as the general Chinese arts of the early 20th Century that that AGNSW possessed.

PAPER #1
The Ocean and the Mulberry Fields: Wang Qi and the Republic Period Porcelain Industry in Jingdezhen

PRESENTER
Ms Yuexiu Shen, Art Gallery of South Australia

In 1978, the Art Gallery of South Australia acquired a set of four large porcelain panels painted by the Chinese artist Wang Qi (1884-1937). Set in elaborately carved wooden frame, the four famille-rose porcelain paintings each depicts two of the Eight Immortals and displays poetry and seals. According to the calligraphy, the panels were created in the eighth month of the Year of Wuchen (September 1928), at Tao Tao Zhai of Zhushan in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province. This paper will look into this set of porcelain panels and its creator -- one of the most famous porcelain painters in Chinese art history --Wang Qi. It will focus on the impact of the fall of the Qing Dynasty and discuss the contribution that Wang Qi brought to the porcelain industry in Jingdezhen during the Republic Period.

PAPER #2
The Modern Woodcut Movement beyond the Communist Canon

PRESENTER
Dr Alex Burchmore, University of Sydney

The Modern Woodcut Movement of the 1930s-1940s is frequently positioned in histories of twentieth-century art in China as a bridge between the ambitions of a post-imperial elite and more populist forms of art after the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. This narrative of revolutionary progress opens with the introduction of European, North American, and Soviet styles to a generation of aspiring printmakers by author and cultural critic Lu Xun (1881-1936). Focus then shifts to Yan’an, Shaanxi province, the Communist Party stronghold during their conflict with the Nationalist (Guomindang) authorities of the Republican era. Here, faculty at the Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts (est. 1938) presided over an explicitly political school of printmaking, subsequently identified as a direct antecedent for the posters of the Maoist era. The official approval and seductive teleology of this narrative, however, tend to obscure a more complex and complete understanding of printmaking in Republican China, the appeal of which extended far beyond Communist-controlled areas. Drawing on the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, this paper will shed light on the political and stylistic interests that gained favour among printmakers in those areas that remained under Guomindang authority between 1936 and 1949.

PAPER #3
Chinese Art of the Republic Period at Art Gallery of NSW

PRESENTER
Dr Yin Cao, Art Gallery of NSW

As a public art institution, AGNSW’s mission is “to serve the widest possible audience as a centre of excellence for the collection, preservation, documentation, interpretation and display of Australian and international art, and a forum of scholarship, art education and the exchange of ideas.” This paper gives a general introduction to the art and artefacts dated to the first half of 20th century in the Gallery’s Chinese collection. It intends to stimulate the interests among students and scholars in conducting further research to this diverse group of cultural remains.

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Biographies

Ms Yuexiu Shen, Art Gallery of South Australia

Yuexiu Shen obtained a Master of Arts and Cultural Management from the University of South Australia. She previously received a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language and Literature from Xiamen University, China. Passion about Chinese arts and culture, Yuexiu is currently a curatorial intern of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia. She is doing research focusing on the late 19th century / early 20th century transitional ceramics arts.


Mr. Russell Kelty, Art Gallery of South Australia

Russell Kelty is the Acting Curator, Asian Art, at the Art Gallery of South Australia, where he has curated and contributed to exhibitions and catalogues, including Samurai (2020–21), Chiharu Shiota: Embodied (2018), Ever blossoming (2016) and Treasure ships: art in the Age of Spices(2015–16). He completed an MA in Art History at the University of Adelaide with a thesis that examined Vietnamese architectural tiles from the fifteenth century found in Indonesia. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Sydney, researching the depiction of foreign ships by Japanese artists during the Edo period (1603–1868).


Dr Alex Burchmore, University of Sydney

Dr Alex Burchmore is an art historian specialising in the study of Chinese art, with a focus on ceramics, trade and exchange, and the interweaving of personal and material identities. Alex received his PhD from the Australian National University in 2019 and joined the University of Sydney in 2021. His doctoral dissertation traced the extent to which artists in China have used porcelain to shape their personal, historical, and cultural identities. His recent publications include a chapter dedicated to the ‘fugitive luxury’ of contemporary Chinese ceramics in The Allure of Matter: Materiality Across Chinese Art (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press).


Dr Yin Cao, Art Gallery of NSW

Yin Cao was trained as an archaeologist at Peking University and Harvard University and has been the Curator of Chinese Art at AGNSW since 2011. Prior to that, she was the Deputy Director at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University in China. She has curated several exhibitions including the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum at Peking University (1993), “Tang: treasures from the Silk Road capital” (2016), and “Heaven and earth in Chinese art: treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei”. She edited and written catalogues for these exhibitions.