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