Attending The lecture on Friday at PCC in Portland on the tradition and change in Chinese Art. Will I see you there?
How did Chinese painting respond to upheaval in the past? The central question for elite painters was what models should one emulate? And how should one adapt and transform these models? If China was understood to be constituted in the creative participation and contribution of its cultural elite, then how did one “practice” China? In this presentation, I’ll look at how painting—the literati tradition in particular—responded to the 14th century Mongol occupation, and later, to the collapse of the Ming dynasty under the Manchu occupation. What happened under the Mongols was a quest for the most appropriate models of the past, models that would serve as the basis for an effective praxis that would enable the continuity of China. During the Ming-Qing transition, literati artists responded in similar ways, but in this later case, the literati masters of the Mongol period had become the chief models, and actual practice had become a conservative orthopraxy, one that a number of artists, often called “individualists,” challenged. These challengers never wholly rejected the past, but instead favored different models, and through them, a return to the drama and narrative of nature’s physical metamorphosis, an approach that they believed returned painting to its origins and to its fully creative participation with nature.