China returns to Saltram

Isaac Julien, 'Hotel (Ten Thousand Waves)', 2010, Endura Ultra pohotograph, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Between 28 April and 7 July 2012 Saltram is co-hosting an exhibition of contemporary art exploring the cultural influence of China on the west. Saltram is of course already home to a significant historic collection of Chinese wallpaper, which I have featured before.

Image of a temple in a mountainous landscape on a Japanese lacquer cabinet, c. 1630-1650, at Ham House, Surrey. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The exhibition has been curated by Eliza Gluckman and is part of the National Trust-sponsored Sinopticon project which explores the interface between chinoiserie – the western use and imitation of Chinese art and design – and contemporary art.

Meekyoung Shin, 'Translation', 2010, facsimiles of Chinese porcelain vessels produced in soap, copyright the artist, courtesy of Haunch of Venison, London (installation view at Haunch of Venison)

Other venues hosting this event are Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and Plymouth College of Art.

Baroque-style display of East Asian porcelain at Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Artists include Suki Chan (UK), Gayle Chong Kwan (UK), Stephanie Douet (UK), Christian Jankowski (Germany), Isaac Julien (UK), WESSIELING (UK), Grayson Perry (UK), Ed Pien (Canada), Meekyoung Shin (South Korea), Karen Tam (Canada), Erika Tan (UK), Tsang Kin-wah (HK/China) and Laura White (UK).

WESSIELING, 'Fashion Chess', 2011, photo by Nigel Trebbeck, copyright the artist

The exhibition demonstrates how chinoiserie is still a relevant concept in view of the persisten cultural barriers between ‘the west’ and China, which can lead alternately to fascination and mistrust, inspiration and misinterpretation.

Model of a Chinese pagoda created by Betty Radcliffe, 1767, at Erddig, Wrexham. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The works on show engage with these barriers in different ways and explore the nature of cultural identity.

Karen Tam, 'Terra dos Chînos', 2011-2012, mixed media, soap, papier-mâché, aluminium foil, courtesy the artist.

Seeing this exhibition in the context of the National Trust’s historic collections, I find it fascinating to realise how globalised the world already was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with international trade carrying East Asian objects into the most personal and private areas of European homes.

Corner cupboard with a mixture of East Asian and English ceramics, at Hill Top, Cumbria. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh

Equally, that sense of wonder in the face of a different culture and that longing for what is distant is still very much with us today.

4 Responses to “China returns to Saltram”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    The soap is intriguing.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes, with interesting dichotomies between porcelain and soap, hard and soft, genuine and fake, original and facsimile, craft and consumption (or crafting something with a ‘comsumer’ product to recreate an ‘art’ original – but then that leads to the question as to whether Chinese imperial porcelains were ‘art’ or in fact sophisticated semi-industrial products – and so on and so forth) 🙂

  3. style court Says:

    The soap facsimiles and mixed-media works captured my imagination right of the bat and after reading your comment here, Emile, I’m anxious to learn more about the artists.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, I like it how you have combined the Karen Tam image on your Tumblr page ( with the Gaberlavage painting, the Lily Lodge bowl and the Erica Tanov spread – a little trail of oranges 🙂

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