Huang Xu – Flowers, Arc 1 Gallery, Melbourne, 2012
The Flowers series is derived from the idea of the ‘Four Gentlemen’ – plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo – alternatively called the ‘Four Noble Ones’. These plants were Confucian symbols for the four qualities of a learned man – one of the most popular themes in traditional Chinese painting.
In the Flowers series, I try to keep the Confucian spirit but reinterpret and re-present the ‘Four Gracious Plants’ as well as other well known Chinese plants and flowers through the contemporary medium of photography. I chose both black and white as my background colour, to symbolize the darkness and light to be found in contemporary Chinese society, as well as to indicate mystery and unpredictability. In traditional Chinese painting, the negative space is usually left open and is suggestive of the void, emptiness used as a compositional and spiritual counterpoint to the actual subject matter. I occupy the positive space with one subject – the Flower.
Huang Xu Beijing February 2013
Liu Zhuoquan, Jan Murphy Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, August 2012
Liu Zhuoquan works with traditional craftsmen who have mastered the ancient art of ‘inside painting’, or ‘neihua’ once used on the beautiful snuff bottles dating from the Ming and Qing dynasties. In Liu Zhuoquan’s practice, however, they become ways of making a comment on many aspects of life in China today. The bottles, which in Liu’s practice are found objects, used bottles which have held a range of products, in varying sizes and shapes, are delicately and precisely painted on the insides. Precise technique and the use of fine brushes create immensely detailed and realistic representations of people, the natural world of plants and insects, Liu sees his work as suggesting a scientific laboratory, as the bottles (discarded and ‘found’ objects referencing the everyday) contain beautifully painted, miniaturized ‘experimental material’ relating to nature, biology, and human society.
Luise Guest Sydney 2012