Seismic States: The Changing System of Support for Contemporary Art in China, 1978-1993

DeBevoise, Jane Boettgen
Supervisor: Prof. D.J. Clarke

The subject of this thesis is the evolving system of support for contemporary visual art made in China between 1978 and 1993. This thesis is based on contemporary publications and interviews with artists and art advocates, in addition to other archival materials, including personal records, correspondence, photographs, treatises, advertising, newspaper clippings, and exhibition documentation. The first section of this thesis begins with an investigation of the state as the patron of the arts. This investigation includes the interlocking roles of the Chinese Artists Association, the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), and the National Art Exhibition in developing the cultural priorities that came to characterize state-sanctioned art in the 1980s. The critical debate around the painting Father by Luo Zhongli illustrates the process of cultural canon-building. The second section focuses on the development of an overseas market for ink painting and realist oil painting in the 1980s, as well as the impact of market reform and the introduction of an economic incentive system on institutions of art, including NAMOC and other incipient art spaces, such as the Beijing International Art Palace. This section also introduces the critique of commercialism that ebbed and waned, but was a recurrent concern in the art world at the time. The third section explores the critical debate about the state-sponsored system of cultural authority and the market, and highlights the emergence from this contested space of a series of alternative platforms of visibility and exposure. These alternative platforms include art publications such as Zhongguo meishubao, Meishu sichao, and exhibition opportunities such as the New Concrete Image exhibition, the Hubei Youth Arts Festival, the Institute Art Tapestry Varbanov, and the 1989 China Avant-Garde Exhibition at NAMOC. Within this context, the experimental artwork of artists such as Mao Xuhui, Gu Wenda, and Wu Shanzhuan is discussed. The fourth section focuses on the 1992 Guangzhou Biennial, which was a pioneering attempt by contemporary artists and their champions, including its organizer Lu Peng, to create an alternative framework of legitimacy and support for experimental art in the wake of Tiananmen Square. Concluding this chapter is an examination of the 1993 exhibition in Hong Kong called China‘s New Art, Post-1989, which was instrumental in launching Chinese contemporary art into the international marketplace. The work of Wang Guangyi is discussed in the context of both exhibitions. In summary, by examining the shift in the socio-economic context in which art was made, presented, promoted, and received, this study problematizes the study of contemporary Chinese art, by illuminating both continuities and changes in the development of art between the 1980s and 1990s. It also provides a historical perspective from which to consider the impact of market reform and the overseas market on the development of contemporary Chinese art today.

Performance Art and the Body in Contemporary China

Fok, Siu Har Silvia 霍少霞
Supervisor: Prof. D.J. Clarke

This thesis examines the historical development of performance art (xingwei yishu) in contemporary China since the mid-1980s. Xingwei yishu is the most common term used to connote the enactment of a performance by the artist’s body. This thesis aims to look into the specific role the artist’s body plays in Chinese performance art. The first chapter examines the diverse roles the body plays in relation to the site in different performance works to reveal its historical development. Comparison of performance works with similar content and body language is made. Works by Xiao Lu, Wu Shanzhuan, Shu Yang, Pan Xinglei, Song Yongping, Ai Weiwei, Zhang Huan, Yang Zhichao, Zhu Fadong, Li Wei, Cang Xin, Gao brothers, Zhan Wang, He Yunchang, Li Haibing, Luo Zidan, Kong Yongqian, Lin Yilin, Wang Wei, Song Dong, Qiu Zhijie, Yin Xiuzhen, Wang Jin, Young Hay, Zheng Lianjie, Wang Chuyu, Liu Jin, Wang Wei, Liu Wei, Shi Qing, Zhang Hui, Wu Ershan, Xiao Xiong and Qin Ga are examined. In addition, the second chapter scrutinizes nudity in Chinese performance art. The history of nudity in performance art as compared with other art forms pinpoints an unstable power relation between performance artists and the authorities. By analyzing ten performance works in the nude from 1984 to 2004 by Wang Peng, Concept 21, Qi Li, SHS Group, Ma Liuming, Zhang Huan, East Village Artists, Zhu Ming, He Yunchang and He Chengyao, it offers a historical study of the transformation of this genre in contemporary China. Lastly, the third chapter examines different approaches in representing life and death through the body in performance art. There is a significant development from performing in a symbolic way appropriating ritual symbols to directly engaging animal bodies and/or corporeal materials with the artist’s body. The controversies of exploiting animal bodies and corpses overwhelm the art circle and society. Works by Wei Guangqing, Wang Youshen, Huang Yan, Zhu Gang, Zhou Bin, Lanzhou Art Army, Neo-History Group, Gu Kaijun, Huang Rui, Dai Guangyu, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Xu Bing, Zhang Peili, Yang Zhenzhong, Wang Jin, Wang Chuyu, Zhang Shengquan, Xu Zhen, Wu Gaozhong and Zhu Yu are examined. This study shows that it is through pinning down the role of the artist’s body can we grasp the impact of the body and different relationships represented in each of these works. This thesis focuses on the diverse roles and impact of the artist’s body in Chinese performance art: be it personal, socio-cultural or political. It offers a contextual analysis that representation of the artist’s body is enhanced along with other artistic developments in contemporary China.

Mid-Muromachi Flower and Bird Painting in Ashikaga Painting Circles

Ng, Yuk Lan 吳玉蘭
Supervisor: Dr. P.R. Stanley-Baker

The mid-Muromachi period, between circa 1420 and 1525, bears significant documentary, literary, and visual evidence which demonstrate the close relationship between Ashikaga collecting and display of Chinese painting and the character of Japanese ink painting produced during this time. As major art patrons, the Ashikaga shoguns, especially Yoshimitsu, Yoshinori and Yoshimasa, played a crucial part in encouraging native painters in shogunal circles to replay desirable Chinese styles. Such works not only reflect the aesthetics of the shogunate but also anticipate shogunal influence over monastic and baronial tastes after the mid-fifteenth century. As a prelude to the evaluation of the artistic contributions of the Ashikaga shoguns, their roles in foreign relations, politics, construction programmes, and cultural activities are studied. The Ashikaga’s motives in maintaining diplomatic and commercial relations with Ming China are reviewed. The context, function and significance of building projects and cultural activities are discussed in relation to issues of collecting patterns, kaisho decor, and cultural hegemony. The Ashikaga shoguns are always given chief credit for promoting Chinese culture and aesthetics. To get an overview, the issue of Chinese influence on Muromachi flower and bird painting in terms of style, composition, format and subject is assessed. Major flower and bird subjects, roughly divided into three groups, are examined in search for their origins, meanings, groupings. The shoguns’ choice of format, style, and subject is further interpreted with regard to context, function, and semiology. The prominent role played by the Ashikaga shoguns in cultural development was most significantly demonstrated by their direct patronage of the arts. Flower and bird paintings by shogunal circles, including doboshu curator-connoisseur-painters, Shokokuji priest-painters, and professional painters, are examined in terms of format, theme, subject, semiotics, and technique, on the basis of two stylistic traditions associated with Muqi and Chinese academicians. The Muqi tradition, the stylistic focus of early and mid-Muromachi flower and bird paintings, is defined based on literary sources and major attributions. The Zen sphere, under which Muqi-oriented styles had established, is discussed with highlight on Ashikaga patronage and gozan culture. For Japanese adaptations of Muqi flower-and-bird styles, early Zen-inspired works by Kao, Tesshu, and Ryozen and later increasingly secular ones by Noami, Chiden, Saian, Sotan, Sokei, Geiai are examined. Paintings by Sesso Toyo, Shinko, Shokei, Soen, Sesson are discussed to mirror the overwhelming influence of Muqi flower-and-bird tradition outside shogunal circles. The rising interest in academic modes in the shogunate after the mid-fifteenth century is assessed, despite relatively limited development in flower-and-bird category. Works by Shökei and Koetsu are examined as examples of the reception of Song academic flower-and-bird painting style, against those associated with Sesshu,Toshun, Masanobu, and Motonobu which are examined in the light of Ming Zhe school influence. The roles and duties of official advisors and painters are also outlined as direct evidence for Ashikaga patronage. In sum, this dissertation evaluates the roles and contributions of the Ashikaga in artistic and cultural developments by investigating the cultural milieu they nurtured and by examining flower and bird paintings in shogunal painting circles.

China Trade Painting: 1750s to 1880s

Lee, Sai Chong Jack 李世莊
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

This thesis contains seven chapters. Chapter One outlines the current scholarships on the study of China trade painting. For a long time, China trade painting has been excluded from the tradition of Chinese art history. It usually appeared as a branch of decorative arts in the art history of China though it is becoming an area of interest of some Chinese scholars in recent years when a number of PhD research papers on the subject are produced. In the second chapter, I shall discuss one of the earliest type of export art catered for the European market, that is the making of clay models. From the works by the Chinese modelers, one will see the early encounter between Chinese artist and Westerners, in and outside China. Chapter Three focuses on reverse painting on glass, a completely new medium imported to China from the West since the eighteenth century. Moreover, the demand for portrait by Westerners emerged in Canton since the late eighteenth century, the extant oil portraits of Spoilum, the earliest known Chinese portrait painter, reflect that painters in Canton already utilized western medium with certain degree of confidence and proficiency. The fourth chapter examines the design of Chinese images by Pu-Qua. These images were popular and influential as they are major sources of Western understanding of the Chinese in the late eighteenth century. Till the mid—nineteenth century, trade painters in Canton kept on reproducing Pu-Qua’s design for the Western market. A considerable proportion of my thesis is devoted to Lamqua as both Chapters Five and Six offer a comprehensive study of artist. Undoubtedly, Lamqua played an extremely crucial role in the history of China trade painting as he was the most famous and well documented artist in the West. Apart from inspecting the controversial identity of Lamqua, I will give a detail analysis of the oil portraits he executed for both his Chinese and Western customers. These portraits on one hand demonstrate the high proficiency of a Chinese painter in utilizing oil paint, the sitters depicted also illustrate the socio-political situation of Canton. Moreover, due to the reputation of Lamqua, his studio has always been a tourist spot for visitors to Canton. A precise study of the modus operandi of Lamqua’s painter studio can give us an idea of how Western style paintings were massively manufactured by many anonymous painters in the nineteenth century Canton. The concluding chapter discusses how trade painting industry flourished since the 1840s. The individual character of trade painters became more identifiable during this period, from Tingqua, Sunqua to Youqua, each painter and their studios bear certain characteristics that are not found in others, even though the kind of pictures they produced are sometimes overlapping. The increasing economic and political importance of Hong Kong after British colonization opened a potential art market for trade painters. With the advent of photography, the production of trade painting faced a new challenge if not a treat. The quick response of the late nineteenth century trade painters in integrating painting and photography to their art business once again manifested their flexibility and open attitude towards Western art media.

The Conventional and the Individual in Fu Baoshi’s (1904-1965) Painting

Siu, Fun Kee 蕭芬琪
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

Fu Baoshi (Fu Ruilin 傅瑞麟, alias Baoshi 抱石, hao Baoshizhai Zhuren 抱石齋主人) was a well-known and influential artist who possessed triple identities as a scholar, painter and seal engraver. The purpose of this thesis is to comprehensively examine and analyze the available materials regarding Fu and study in detail his existent work in order to sort out his artistic achievements and contributions to contemporary Chinese art history. The thesis begins with a literature review in Chapter One, which saw Fu enjoy a remarkable reputation during his lifetime and his artistic talents were greatly valued. It continues in Chapter Two, a discussion of the stylistic development of Fu's landscape painting alongside with his scholarly pursuit of Chinese painting history. There were four stages in development: the initial stage (1904-1939), the high-spirited advancing period (1939-1946), the mature stage (1946-1957) and a stage of scaling new heights (1957-1965). Enlightened by Shitao's theory and work, Fu advanced at every stage by earning from practice and nature, and successfully captured the essence of the landscape. He accomplished a textural painting technique of 'Baoshi Cun 抱石皴' which brought a breakthrough to the restraints on traditional painting brushwork. Fu's pursuit of antiquity in figure paintings is examined in Chapter Three. These paintings are always related to Chinese literature and history. The representation of poets, such as Qu Yuan, Tao Yuanming, Shitao, Du Fu and Li Bai, shows the intellectuals' consciousness of suffering. Apart from his remarkable reflection of poems, Fu was fond of illustrating ancient stories and through some of them, he satirized the ills of the times and expressed his discontent. His figure painting is distinguished by the professional use of line, which benefited from his study of line, the influence of Gu Kaizhi and Fu's seal engraving. It follows by a discussion on the periodical styles in terms of variant of brushwork, eye expressions, modeling of figure and application of colors. The focus then shifts to Fu's paintings on Mao Zedong's poems in Chapter Four. Following a brief account of Mao's theory on art, Fu's primary motives for creating this category of paintings were his antipathy to the Nationalist Party, his expectations from the Communist Party, the influence of Guo Moruo and the charm of Mao's poems. The discussion concludes that with his innovative expression and rich imagination, the paintings have advanced Mao's original poems and achieved a lofty ideal. Finally, brief survey on Fu's seal engraving in Chapter Five is devoted to explore his superlative craftsmanship in carving skill and his attainment of individuality beyond antiquity, with his upright and patriotic personality embodied in the content and style of the seals. Furthermore, the 'Chronological Biography of Fu Baoshi', 'List of Seals' and 'Distribution of Collection of Fu Baoshi's Paintings' are attached to the thesis.

Chen Shizeng (1862-1923) and the Reform of Chinese Art

Gao, Xindan 高昕丹
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan and Prof. David Clarke

Zhang Daqian’s (1899-1983) Place in the History of Chinese Painting

Law, Suk Mun Sophia 羅淑敏
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

Patterns in the Collecting and Connoisseurship of Chinese Art in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Wear, Eric Otto 華立強
Supervisor: Prof. David Clarke and Prof. Q.L. Wan

This thesis articulates and demonstrates a reflexive practice of investigation into the meanings of artworks in the lives of individuals. Particular, observed instances of experience and interpretation are considered through the employment of a 'toolbox' of approaches drawn from situational sociology (and ethnography) and object relations theory as employed in clinical psychoanalysis. As in ethnographic study and practitioners' accounts of psychoanalysis, attention is given to the investigator as the principal instrument in the investigation and the source of resulting descriptions. In form, the thesis is composed through parallel lines of abstraction (and concern for published discourse) and concrete observations. The practice of proceeding on these two levels simultaneously (and the digressions that this process occasions) is a significant aspect of the thesis, realising as it does a reflection on the epistemology of inquiry and description. An important consequence of this undertaking is to demonstrate alternatives for art historical research and writing, emphasising the context and situated character of interpretative practice and its understanding. As a part of this thesis, a small-scale study was undertaken between 1992 and 1997 with approximately sixty persons who interpret contemporary and historical art in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This had the primary aim of considering how methodological and descriptive strategies might illuminate the circumstances of the subjects, and to recognise further issues that might arise from the actualities of fieldwork and participant inquiry. A secondary concern was to explicate a portion of the art field in Hong Kong and Taiwan; in particular, the activities, strategies and interpretations of persons who employ Chinese art in articulations of self or as a part of their engagement with social circumstances.

The Life and Art Photography of Lang Jingshan (1892-1995)

Lai, Kin Keung Edwin 黎健強
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

Lang Jingshan (1892-1995) was indisputably the most prominent figure in the history of Chinese art photography. Indeed, his personal life, artistic career, theories of art photography, and influence have been regarded by some writers as a summing-up of the main currents of Chinese art photography from its inception to about 1980. This thesis traces his life and career and explains the related historical background, analyzes his theories of art photography and examines his art photographs. In short, it gives a comprehensive account of the life and art of one of the best known names in modern Chinese art. This thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter One is the historical background. It gives a summary account of the history of Chinese art photography from its inception to the present. Since Lang Jingshan had become interested in photography before the advent of art photography in China, it also briefly charts the introduction of the medium to China and the early developments. Chapter Two traces Lang Jingshan’s life and photographic career. It includes his family background, his childhood and education, his first contact with art and photography, his jobs and marriages, death, etc. Especially it looks into the various phases of Lang Jingshan’s career in art photography. Chapter Three investigates Lang Jingshan’s views and theories of art photography. It examines the artist’s views of photography, art and art photography, and discusses his theories of art photography, and the theories and procedures of composite photography which he was best known for. With more than five hundred illustrations Chapter Four engages a close study of Lang Jingshan’s photography. Through the organization of his output in relations to their time periods and subjects, it interprets these images with references to the history of Chinese photography and the artist’s personal life. Chapter Five is the conclusion. It deals with two central issues: what position Lang Jingshan occupied in the history of Chinese art photography, and how his art can be critically assessed. It argues that Lang Jingshan had played an important role in the early developments of Chinese art photography, and although there are problems and limitations in his views and art, they offer a lesson that we can learn from.

Dance Sculpture as a Visual Motif of the Sacred and the Secular : A Comparative Study of the Belur Cennakesava and the Halebidu Hoysalesvara Temples

Ramaswami, Siri
Supervisor: Dr. R. Ghose