Sunday, December 17, 2017

Art gallery exhibit looks at the lives of Chinese literati

October 2, 2015 by Jayden Grieve, contributing writer

Our city, relative to its size, has long had an incredible variety of opportunities for its residents to take in many forms of cultural expression; the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) has been a constant provider of these chances.

One of the AGGV’s current exhibits, Treasures of the Chinese Scholar’s Studio, promises to uphold this tradition.

“It’s a good show,” says AGGV curator of Asian art Barry Till. “It’s very academic, and a lot of people seem to be enjoying it.”

Treasures of the Chinese Scholar’s Studio boasts beautiful calligraphy, paintings, artifacts, and other paraphernalia from the studios of Chinese scholars from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

“We have a lot of outstanding artifacts. There must be about 250 objects in the show, maybe more,” says Till. “We have the second largest and second most comprehensive Asian collection in Canada, and that’s why we can do specialized shows like this.”

Qiu Ying’s A Scholarly Gathering in a Garden is just one of many pieces on display at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s Treasures of the Chinese Scholar’s Studio exhibit (photo provided).

Till goes on to say that the gallery put on a similar show 13 years ago, but that it had been on both Chinese and Japanese scholars.

Since then they’ve received so many donations that it was possible to put on a show centred specifically on the uniqueness of the Chinese literati.

“There were what you call academic painters who went to work in the courts, and they were very stiff. This is very free,” says Till. “The literati weren’t professional painters. They were amateurs, but often their paintings were more valuable than the professional academy painters’.”

The literati were people who loved to hang out with their friends, have a little drink, and create something beautiful.

“They were opening up their minds and showing off to their friends to try and elevate themselves as intellectuals,” explains Till.

The wide variety of items on display provides a good view of the literati lifestyle.

Till says that he is proud of the quality of the show that the gallery has put together, and he believes that it will be a fun experience for anyone who comes to see it.

“It’s not necessarily only the most expensive things you’re going to see in the show; you are going to see what the literati loved to do,” he says. “It shows their great love of education, and what they had to go through to get their education. It shows what their lifestyles were like, and it’s kind of fun in that it shows you another aspect of ancient Chinese culture.”

Treasures of the Chinese Scholar’s Studio
Until November 15
$11 for students, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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