Sentient Paper exhibition celebrates artistry and innovation

Landscript: a stroll back to this place I enjoy (2002) ink on Nepalese paper by Xu Bing,

Landscript: a stroll back to this place I enjoy (2002) by Xu Bing.

Sentient Paperthe latest exhibition in the China Gallery of the Chau Chak Wing Museum, celebrates the dynamic spirit of this supple yet robust material and its place in Chinese history, thought and art.

Shuxia Chen, the curator of the China Gallery said, “For our second exhibition, following Auspicious: Motifs in Chinese Art I wanted to feature a material that is both everyday and ‘mighty’ – paper. While society continues to embrace the digital, it is a familiar, tactile object and an ancient, enlightening technology that transmits knowledge and artistic expression. ”

“These fifty-four works range from the classical to the contemporary including paintings, calligraphy, rubbings, prints, sculptures, paper-cuttings, photographs, political posters, postcards, and rare books.”

Some key works from the exhibition:

Technology

Papermaking is believed to have been invented by Cai Lun (57-121) in 105, according to the one of the earliest historical records.

Papermaking is one of the four great inventions of ancient China, and the Ming Dynasty technical encyclopedia explained, The Exploitation of the Works of Nature (1637), by Song Yingxing, together with important skills such as jade carving and metallurgy. A three volume 1959 reproduction of this work is displayed, from the University of Sydney’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

Also featured in this part of the exhibition, from the same library collection, are examples of the famous Dianshizhai Pictorial (1884–1898), a supplement in the Shen Bao newspaper founded by British businessman Ernest Major. From the first long-lived periodical to be industrially produced in Shanghai and vividly illustrated, its content met the popular desire for the “sensational and strange”. Its coverage of local and global events provides a significant record of the society and politics of late-Qing China.

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