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Category: mediums

Photo Wednesday: Buddhist monk from Bhutan

14 May, 2008 (05:00) | himalayas, prints/photographs | By: xensen

buddhist monk from bhutanbhutan

This painterly image of a young Bhutanese Buddhist monk comes from Curr_En’s photostream.

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Conical fritware bowl from thirteenth-century Iran

5 May, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, west asia | By: xensen

iranian fritware conical bowl

This is a spread from the book I am working on on Persian ceramics from the collection of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (I’m still waiting for final text). The object is a fritware conical bowl painted with “panel style” decoration in underglaze blue and black manganese (The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P1893).

Firt is a ground glasslike substance (I think potash and quartz were the main ingredients) that, added to clay, reduces its firing temperature, which is helpful for applying overglazes. It was used in West Asian pottery to produce a fine white base that imitated the quality of Chinese porcelain.

The bowl dates from the first half of the thirteenth century, and, according to the curators, may be from Kashan in Iran. Poetic verses in white on the black areas express longing for the absence of a beloved.

Photos by Kaz Tsuruta.

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Lotfollah mosque, Isfahan, outside view

1 May, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, early modern, west asia | By: xensen

lotfolla mosque, outside view

I showed yesterday the interior view of this mosque’s dome. So maybe it’s worth having a look from the outside. The outside, like the inside of the dome, is original, dating from 1602-1619 (the entrance tiles are a modern addition). Like yesterday’s photo, this one is from seier+seier+seier’ s photostream.

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Lotfollah mosque

30 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, early modern, west asia | By: xensen

lotfolla mosque, isfahan, iran

This spectacular photo from seier+seier+seier’ s photostream shows the dome of the Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan. I have been working on a book on Persian ceramics lately; just today I was placing Isfahan on a map that will appear in the book. Isfahan, now in Iran (about 340 km south of Tehran), was a major city during the Safavid Seljuk period and for a time the capital of Safavid Seljuk Persia.

This will be a cool book — I’ll post some images from it soon — featuring tiles, vessels, bowls, and small statuary. But nothing in it is as grand as this majestic dome, which dates from the early seventeenth century.

Compare this dome’s burst of color and pattern with a sunflower image I posted recently on another of my blogs (buriedmirror.com, devoted to Mesoamerica).

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Endless warriors

29 April, 2008 (05:00) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china | By: xensen

the first emperor's warriors

Can’t get enough of the First Emperor’s terra-cotta warriors? Well, you’re in luck: The Bowers Museum is presenting the largest loan of the terra-cotta figures ever, called Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor. The exhibition opens May 18 and runs through October 12. What a cash cow this discovery has turned out to be!

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Fast Food

28 April, 2008 (05:00) | china, contemporary, paintings | By: xensen

fast food, oil painting by chinese artist kang can

This painting by Kang Can (Fast Food III, 2007, oil on canvas, 35.5 x 31.5 inches) is a good example of Chinese Neo-Pop art (it was shown at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables, Florida earlier this year). In the contemporary Chinese context pop often has a satiric element, aimed at materialism and self-indulgence. At times, as here, the satire can get a little heavy-handed.

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Mu Rui’s medallion

23 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, early modern | By: xensen

gold plaque given mu rui by the yongle emperor, from the najing municipal museum

Recently I’ve been reading Perpetual Happiness by Shihi-Shan Henry Tsai, a biography of Zhu Di, who ruled the Ming dynasty as the Yongle emperor from 1403–1424 (more on this later). Formerly the Prince of Yan, the Yongle emperor usurped the throne from his nephew and moved the Ming capital from Nanjing to his personal power base at Beijing; in 1406 he began construction of what would become the Forbidden City.

This gold medallion, now in the Nanjing Municipal Museum, was buried in the tomb of Ma rui in 1627, during the reign of the Tianqi emperor (1621–1627).; it was discovered during a 1974 excavation near Nanjing. Mu Rui served as the Yongle emperor’s Vice Commissioner-in-Chief, but he was implicated in an attempted revolt. He died in prison in 1609. How did he obtain this plaque? In the forthcoming catalogue of the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition of Ming court arts, He Li offers an explanation:

A court record may provide a clue. In 1408, the Yongle emperor held a banquet to celebrate a successful battle against Annam, in which Mu Sheng was the chief commander (see cat. no. 103). The emperor is said to have awarded to the guest of honor, Mu Sheng, items including the emperor’s own handwritten poem, a jade belt, and a golden plaque (Mingshi, chap. 126, p. 7397); the latter was most likely the surviving medallion here. With the commands possibly engraved by Sheng, it must have been passed down as a family heirloom to later generations. Unfortunately, two hundred years later, its orders were sullied by Mu Rui. Eighteen years after his death, the family was able to conduct Mu Rui’s funeral. By burying the prestigious medallion with him, they announced the end of the legendary name of Mu, which had once been glorified for its support of the Ming court.

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Ming bling

21 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, china, early modern | By: xensen

ming dynasty lotus ornament from nanjing municipal museum

My mind has been on China’s Ming dynasty (1368–1644) recently because of the show of Ming dynasty court art that is coming up this summer at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. So let’s look at a few examples from this long-lasting dynasty (the last to be ruled by native Chinese).

Shown here is an ornament of nephrite and gold depicting a lotus pond, from the Nanjing Municipal Museum. Egrets and aquatic plants appear beneath two large lotus leaves. According to He Li, there is some uncertainty whether such ornaments, used as hat knobs during the previous Mongol Yuan dynasty, were repurposed during the Ming as covers for vessels.

According to Terese Tse Bartholomew, the combination of lotus and egret is a rebus, or visual pun, signifying a wish for advancement in the governmental meritocracy. This is because “egret” is pronounced lu and “lotus” lian; together the two words suggest yilu lianke, or “May you pass your [civil service] exams all the way.”

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Japanese cloisonné

7 April, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan, modern | By: xensen

japanese cloisonne vase

Cloisonné is a technique of decorative enameling. Sections of the object to be enameled are defined with wires and areas of color are laid down. The term comes from the French word cloisonner, to partition. Examples of Chinese cloisonné date as far back as the 1200s, I think; perhaps it originated in West Asia and spread along the Silk Road.

The development of cloisonné as a major art form in Japan is traditionally attributed to a daimyo artist named Kaji Tsunekichi of Nagoya in Owari Province (modern Aichi Prefecture), who deconstructed a Chinese example to analyze the technique. In part to satisfy Western demand after the opening of Japan, schools of cloisonné artists were producing large numbers of very fine examples by the end of the century. The period from 1880 to 1910 is sometimes called the golden age of Japanese cloisonné.

Shown is a lidded copper-body cloisonné enamel vase with a dragon motif from the collection of the V&A. Probably from Nagoya, it is dated to 1880-1890 (museum no. M.205-1917).

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Huge tomb find in China’s Shaanxi Province

2 April, 2008 (05:00) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china | By: xensen

The discovery near Xi’an of a Qin Dynasty tomb group is believed to be the largest found in China; it comprises 604 tombs.

“I was astounded by the sheer number of tombs,” said Sun Weigang, a researcher with the Shaanxi Institute of Archaeological Research. “We know Shaanxi is rich in cultural relics, with over a thousand tombs unearthed every year. But we have never found so many in such a small area”.

Most of the tombs are of ordinary people and do not contain particularly valuable objects, but are of enormous interest to archeologists researching the social life of the period. A vast collection of pottery and bronze ware has been unearthed including cauldrons, pots, jars, axes and swords, as well as more than 200 complete human skeletons.

Archaeologists hope the discovery of the tombs will help them locate the site of the ancient Qin Dynasty city of Liyi.

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via Dream Art Gallery

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Joge-e

1 April, 2008 (05:00) | japan, prints/photographs | By: xensen

joge-e, japanese

Joge-e, or “two-way pictures” were a form of woodblock print that was popular in the nineteenth century (when Japan’s world was being turned upside down). The prints reveal new images when rotated 180 degrees. Pink Tentacle has more examples.

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Huntington’s Garden of Flowing Fragrance

31 March, 2008 (05:00) | architecture/public, china | By: xensen

terrace of the jade mirror at the huntington gardens near pasadena california

The Huntington Gardens in San Marino near Pasadena, California, recently opened their new Chinese-themed garden, the Garden of Flowing Fragrance (Liu Fang Yuan). (Last time I was there the garden was under construction, but I will make a point to see it when I am in LA this May for BEA, the book publishing trade fair.)

The garden is inspired by the Chinese literati tradition of gardens as places of contemplation. Such gardens were seen as analogous to scroll paintings — as one walks through the garden carefully arranged scenes are encountered as if a scroll was being unfolded. Architecture and allusion are important aspects of these gardens.

The Huntington explains the garden’s name on their website:

The garden’s name, Liu Fang Yuan, has both literal and symbolic meanings. The words liu fang, or “flowing fragrance,” refer to the scent of flowers and trees, including the pine, lotus, plum, and other native Chinese plants found here. The Chinese poet Cao Zhi (192–232) first used the words in his “Rhapsody on the Luo River Goddess” to describe how the fragrance of flowers trailed in the goddess’s wake as she walked among the scented flora. And liu fang echoes the name of famed Ming dynasty painter Li Liufang (1575–1629), known for his refined landscapes.

Shown is an image from the Huntington’s site, of the Terrace of the Jade Mirror.

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Torei Enji enso

19 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

enso, or zen circle, by torei enji

Here’s another enso, or Zen circle, by Torei Enji (1721-1792). Compare this to the Torei enso posted 12 March. Here his brush is more unevenly inked, creating a range of grays, with the darkest areas either on the inside or outside of the line. As the brush approaches the top of the circle its pressure is lightened, then reapplied for the swooping downward motion. For this enso Torei adds a dot in the center.

The calligraphy is translated by Stephen Addis as “The images presents itself, nothing more.” This work, from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, appeared in an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum.

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Hakuin enso and Daruma

18 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

hakuin enso

Here’s a delightful enso by the Rinzai Zen master Hakuin Ekaku Zenji (1686-1769). Unassuming and unaffected yet not at all reticent, it displays an exceptionally even and steady hand, with only a hint of the beginning and end at bottom left.

As a bonus, here’s a Hakuin Daruma, which reveals some of the same qualities.

hakuin daruma

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Bird’s Nest

17 March, 2008 (05:00) | architecture/public, china, contemporary | By: xensen

Seven Junipers has been occupied on other matters recently but hopes to return to blogging in earnest in short order.

Here is a trailer for a film about Ai Weiwei’s Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing, being constructed by Herzog and de Meuron.

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Torei Enji enso

12 March, 2008 (05:00) | japan, modern, paintings | By: xensen

zen circle by torei enji (1721-1792)

This enso is by Torei Enji (1721-1792), who excelled at the Zen circle. Torei began this one by pressing his brush down hard at the lower left and swiftly continuing around the circle while lifting the brush.

The calligraphy says “In heaven and on the earth, I alone am worthy of honor,” lines attributed at birth to the historical Buddha.

Yoko Woodson, curator of Japanese art at the Asian Art Museum, thinks that the curious smudgy echo of the enso at the lower left represents a shell.

Kanjuro Shibata enso

11 March, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, japan, paintings | By: xensen

kanjuro shibata xx enso

Form is void and void is form.
– The Heart Sutra

Let’s have a look at some Zen circles, or ensos. A symbol of wholeness and cyclic return — and some would say of enlightenment — this simple figure seems ideally suited to brush and ink, and it can be surprisingly expressive. Every good enso has some individual quality that sets it apart from others.

This enso, by Kanjuro Shibata XX, who served as the bowmaker to the Emperor of Japan from 1959 until 1994, has a twist — literally. Kanjuro Shibata puts a sort of lock on the join in his circle, perhaps much as an archer locks in on his target.

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Wang Yi Guang

10 March, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, china, himalayas, paintings | By: xensen

wang yi guang

Wang Yi Guang is a Chinese artist who studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He has produced a series of romanticized visions of gambols in the fields of Tibet. According to Paintalicious

Wang’s fond memories of Tibet — particularly catching sight of young girls running and laughing across the magnificent Tibetan plains, their sheep and cattle in tow — remind the artist that Feitain (or flying Devi, a mystical character, which is primarily found in the murals at Dunhuang and in sculptural forms in a handful of cave grottoes in China) does exist in life.

Do these paintings have a political agenda? I’d like to think not.

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Shown is River to Paradise, O/C, 130 x 140 cm, 2004.

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