Yokoyama Taikan, Waves In Moonlight, 1904/5, 48.8x64.cm,unmounted, ink and color on silk, Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Yokoyama Taikan, Waves In Moonlight, 1904/5, 48.8x64.cm,unmounted, ink and color on silk, Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Through a play on the figure of Rodin’s thinker, this animated film about environmental pollution looks at man’s journey from caves to cities.
Director : A.R.Sen
Year : 1981
Art studio of the ‘University course for Art Teacher’ (3 year course), part of the Faculty of Technical Sciences in Bandung, 1950. Tropenmuseum. The building was demolished in the 1990s and the new building for the Faculty of Fine Art and Design of the Institut Teknologi Bandung was built on it.
3 July 1920 - De Techniche Hoogeschool te Bandoeng (T.H.S.) is established.
July 1921 - July 1922 - Prof. lr. Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker appointed as contract staff to teach history of architecture and decorative arts, specification and estimation as well as urban planning.
1924 - Prof. lr. Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker appointed as permanent staff.
1 August 1947 - T.H.S. established the Universitaire Leergang Voor de Opleiding van Tekenleraren (Balai Pendidikan Seni Rupa Tingkat Universitas Guru Gambar), chairman is Simon Admiral.
1948 - Ries Mulder (1909-1973) appointed to teach European drawing and painting technique.
1951-1961 - Syafei Sumardja (1907 -) First Indonesian appointed as director of Balai Pendidikan Universitas Guru Gambar.
1956 - Fusion of Department of Architecture and Fine Art. Focus study; art education and open painting studio.
1959 - T.H.S. ccanged to ITB on 2 March, independent of Universitas Indonesia. It consists of seven departments, including Department of Planning and Fine Art. Ries Mulder left Indonesia.
1963-1964 - Sculpture, ceramic and printmaking studio established.
1973 - Department of Fine Art and Design established.
The sun, it compels me to paint…
Kurosawa Akira 黒澤 明, ‘Crows’ in Dreams 夢, 1990.
I am so relieved that the semester is finally over. Showed this video in the closing lecture to the students in the Modern Art History survey course. For me, it sums up my fascination with yoga or Western style painting in Japan. Or perhaps, more accurately, my interest in the Japanese’s fascination with oil painting in the late 19th and early 20th century.
I had a nice time leafing through many catalogues on this topic in a number of Japanese libraries over the past week. I wonder if I can apply a form of structuralist reading to this genre in comparison to nihonga or Japanese style painting, that builds on some of the methodology that Hubert Damisch had worked out through his Theory of /Clouds/? I am entertaining the idea that this form of structuralist mapping would consider both yoga and nihonga as two divergent yet interlocking genres, constituting modern Japanese painting discourse, rather than simply say distinct institutions, which generate aesthetic meaning through their opposition to the other.
Featured artwork is supposedly the final painting by Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows, 1890, 50.2 x 103 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
Unknown, Queen and King Edward in Indian Dress, early 20th cent, 24.5x19.3cm, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Portrait of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, possibly commissioned for Delhi Durbar 1903 where Edward was proclaimed Emperor of India.
As you can probably tell, I’ve been terribly busy. There’s little time for amusements such as this blog for the next six month as I take my writing seriously. Not to mention teaching load at the university has increased significantly. But I am not going to disappear for good, will try my best to pop by occasionally.
The painting is by Georgette Chen 张荔英 (1906-1993), Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, 1957, 92.4 x 111cm, National Heritage Board, Singapore.
Postcard ‘Scenes from Kuala Lumpur (吉隆坡風景)’, 1950s.
Street life outside Jamek Mosque, 1970s
Staff Pick: We love the blend of poetry and art in this beautiful work of ink, silver, and gold on paper.
“Calligraphy of a Poem over a Design of Chrysanthemums”, 1615–37, painted by Tawaraya Sōtatsu, calligraphy by Hon’ami Kōetsu
Daoud Corm (1852-1930), Melons بطيخ, 1899, oil on canvas, 60.1 x 73.2cm, Mathaf Arab MoMa
If museums are repositories of the past, they risk being redundant in countries like India, where the past is alive in any number of unprecedented ways. Mutating, hybridising, and getting juxtaposed with modern and postmodern incursions in our public sphere, the past is less a repository of seemingly eternal resources than a dynamic, even interruptive element in the shaping of new narratives. The ‘pre-modern’ can catalyse conflicting modernities, as indeed, the 'folk’ can defy the nomenclature of 'folklore’ by assuming, if not asserting, a contemporary significance.
The 'Indian past’, I would argue, challenges the very grammatology of the Euro-American museum structure (and its non-western derivations), which continue to rely on the periodisation, classification, and categorisation of its artefacts…
The 'new Asian museum’, it seems to me, will need to dismantle this projection of a factitious 'past’ by exploring new imaginaries, in which multiple times - indeed, multiple pasts - can be staggered rather than juxtaposed through discrete combinations. New principles of visualising 'Asia’ could also be explored by drawing on the ecological principles that are embedded in traditional forms - principles relating to erasure, renewal and impermanence, as can be discerned in the rich gamut of ritual and cultural practices like kolams (traditional floor-drawings).
- Rustom Bharucha, 'Beyond the Box’, Third Text, 14:52, pp 11-19.
Ravi Varma (1848-1906), Gallery of Musicians, 1889, oil on canvas, 57.2 x 71.1cm, Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery (Mysore)
Constructing the rafter of the ceremonial hall at the Technische Hogeschool Bandoeng, 1919, photograph in the collection of J. Bijs Bilthoven.
One of the more beautiful modern architectural conceit and endeavour in Southeast Asia can be found today in Bandung. There is an arresting poignancy in how the ceremonial hall of what is today the Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) came to represent the ambivalence felt by numerous actors who interacted (directly or indirectly) with the institution, spurred by the Dutch ethical policy in the East Indies. The rather extensive passage below the break is plucked out of Abidin Kusno’s magisterial text on the built environment of Indonesia from Dutch rule to New Order. His study is, in my opinion, unmatched in its ability to unpack the strange ironies of colonial modernity that an architecture, representing a colonial institution, such as this produced.
Formally, the dominance of the indigenous idiom int he exterior and interior of the school ultimately dispels any illusion of the possibility of a “European” architecture. The buildings and interior spaces are furnished with local arts and crafts, as if the rationality of the engineering school, along with its institutional management, is conned by a series of grandiose traditional chiefs’ houses of a particular region in the archipelago. On the one hand, the curving, multilayered roofs supported by a series of arched structures were a technologically advanced construction. On the other hand, the interior details of joints, the ornamented windows and doors, the exposed stone walls and columns, and the lucid composition of building materials, all exposed in their “natural-ness,” was the epitome of Arts and Crafts design. The details of the buildings and the clear exposition of the structural logic intensity the rationality of the local arts and crafts. Presupposed here is the ultimate reconnection of the indigenous architectural style with the mechanistic activities but within a functional, structural and formal appropriateness of an architectural order of things.
Interior of ceremonial hall, ca 1920; featured in Goenarso, Riwayat perguruan tinggi teknik di Indonesia, periode 1920-1942, Bandung: ITB Publishing, 1995.
… The Bandoeng Technische Hogeschool could therefore be seen as the outcome of Maclaine Pont’s experiment on how to integrate the scientificity of the institution, the Arts and Crafts movement he had sympathy with, and the indigenous culture he was emotionally attached to. It also represents the efforts of Pont to resolve his own ambiguous identity by integrating the best of both the indigenous and the metropole as suggested by the “new society” of the Ethical Policy. It also shows his ambiguous position towards colonialism, as how to think of a building as a statement for the changing colonial policy, from force to hegemony, from violence to pacification, demonstrating the subtlety of Dutch colonialism in coming up with new, more “sympathetic” symbols of power.
Dr. W.G. N. van der Sleen, De Technische Hogeschool in Bandoeng, 1929. Tropenmuseum.
However, as a space where a post-enlightenment rationality was disseminated, higher education inevitably contained a gap whiter exulted formats internal contradiction. On the one hand, it sought to sustain colonial policy, but on the other hand, it sought its own disinterested coherence regardless of its ideological supports as an instrument of the colonial state. Made to be egalitarian within a colonial structure of inequality, high education entered the history of colonialism in an ambivalent way. It produced “indigenous” professionals trained to sustain colonial hegemony, but it also unintentionally provided an intellectual basis for the emergence of elites who worked against colonialism. It is appropriate to recall that Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, was himself the first graduate of the Bandoeng Technische Hoogeschool, choosing the design his nation instead of designing buildings for the Dutch elite.
- Abidin Kusno, Behind the Postcolonial: Architecture, Urban Space and Political Cultures in Indonesia, 2000, pp. 44-46.
A typology of Ozu Yasujiro’s (小津 安二郎) passageways. Edited by Kogonada.
Scenes were all from his colour films: Equinox Flower 彼岸花 (1958), Good Morning お早よう (1959), Floating Weeds 浮草 (1959), Late Autumn 秋日和 (1960), The End of Summer 小早川家の秋 (1961), An Autumn Afternoon 秋刀魚の味 (1962).
David Bordwell’s analysis of Ozu’s low height shot (pp. 76-80), commonly known as the ‘tatami-shot’, is still the most convincing reading of Ozu’s unique cinematic technique to date.
Georgette Chen Li Ying 张荔英 (1906-1993), Family Portrait, undated (ca. 1960-65), oil on canvas, 184.5 x 152.1cm, National Heritage Board, Singapore.
Everyone is shouting and promoting the ‘Nanyang style’, but what is 'Nanyang style’, how is it formed or created? Nanyang style is actually Malayan style. As Malaya has embarked on the path to independence, it must have its own national style. This style takes the tropical flavour as its primacy and blends the arts of the Chinese, Malay, English and Indians into one, to form the Nanyang style in art.
- author unknown, The Art of Young Malayans, 1955.
1. Khrua In Khong, People Viewing Giant Lotus, ca. 1865, Wat Bowornniwet Vihara.
2. Khrua In Khong, Life of Buddha, 1851-68, Nakhon Pathom, Mondop Phra Phuttabat of Wat Phra Ngam. Mural showing attempts at linear perspective,
3. Khrua In Khong, Mural of European Scene, mid 19th century, Ubosot of Wat Bowornniwet Vihara.
Rattanakosin monk artist Khrua In Khong executed a number of murals during the reign of Rama IV (Mongkut), which incorporated Western themes. One of the most striking is the surreal narrative, People Viewing Giant Lotus. This section depicts a crowd of spectators in Western garb, examining the blossoming of a giant lotus, one of the eight auspicious Buddhist symbol of progress and purification from defilement. Others show attempts at linear perspectives and experimentation at rendering orthogonal to suggest planar recession. Then there are also his use of European cityscapes as backdrop for illustrations of the jataka (stories of the Buddha’s past lives) and attempts at shading.
Khrua In Khong came to know Mongkut during the latter’s retreat from court politics as a monk. When Mongkut subsequently ascended the throne, Khrua In Khong was brought into the service of the court and was primarily active in the 1850s and 1860s. Many of the imageries were based on European and American prints that reached Siam in the 19th century, as Khrua In Khong never travelled overseas. There were also speculations that he would have access to trade paintings.
What is so striking about his style is that it reflected Mongkut’s modernising ambition. In many ways, it articulates the Thai concept of siwilai (a transliteration of the term civilisation) as a form of geographical discourse. In the manner that markers of civility rely on the establishment of relative cultural superiority over the other, siwilai refers to the traditional hierarchical conception of order inherent Traiphum cosmography and overlaid this on how Siam viewed itself in relation to the West. The murals as a counter-appropriation of new technologies of representation within the sanctuary of Thai spirituality, could therefore be seen as an an attempt to reconcile Siamese traditional knowledge system with foreign modes of experiencing, visualising and embodying the world.
John Clark, ‘The Southeast Asian Modern: Three Artists’, Modern and Contemporary Southeast AsianArt: An Anthology, Nora Taylor and Boreth Ly, eds., Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2012. pp. 15-32.
Wiyadā Thō̜ngmit, Khrua In Khong’s westernized school of Thai painting, Bangkok : Ancient City Co. [for] Thai Cultural Data Centre, 1979.
Thongchai Winichakul, 'The Quest for “Siwilai”: A Geographical Discourse of Civilizational Thinking in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Siam’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3, Aug 2000, pp. 528-549.
Third Triennale India held in New Delhi in 1975.
Director : Omprakash Sharma
Year : 1976
The third edition of Triennale-India showcased works by artists from 25 different countries. The Jury were unable to consider exhibits from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and part of the Korean section due to late arrival. The International Jury awarded the gold medals along with a cash prize of Rs 10,000 each to the following artists: Pentti Lumikangas (Finland), Hugh Weiss (France), Kozo Mio (Japan), Jorge B. Stever (Federal Republic of Germany), David van de Kop (The Netherlands), and Shanti Dave (India).
Lalit Kala Akademi (National Academy of Arts), an autonomous body funded by Ministry of Culture, has been organising Triennale-India since 1968 in the capital city of India, New Delhi, every three years.
The Triennale-India is open to all countries and around forty countries from around the globe participate in the event bringing a range of contemporary art works by some of the well-known artists from different cultures on a common platform. An exhibition of Indian works, selected by a panel of commissioners from different parts of the country, is also held as a part of the Triennial. The last Triennale-India was held in 2005.
The fate of the statue is recorded on film. Tanks rolled into the Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989, toppling the statue (see 4:30 - 4:40) and began the crackdown on the student protest movement that would lead to bloodshed.
Popular readings that Goddess of Democracy statue resembles the Statue of Liberty are inaccurate in their account of how the statue came into being. In fact, participants in the creation of the sculpture have reflected on this episode and noted that they were conscious of not copying the Statue of Liberty because it would be read by the authorities as too pro-American.
In fact, the form was modelled after a Soviet Socialist Realist Vera Mukhina’s stainless steel sculpture Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (1914) first shown at the Paris World’s Fair in 1937. Students at the Central Academy of Fine Arts were exposed to Mukhina’s sculpture as part of their academic exercise and they consciously adopted it as a more suitable model of uprising centred on sympathy with the people.
Construction of the statue began in 27 May 1989 in the compound of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. The statue was built in a short span of four days. It was made out of foam and papier-mâché over a metal armature. The sculpture, measuring 33 metres (10 feet) was meant to boost the faltering morale of the protesters, who have been staging a sit out at Tiananmen Square from mid-May.
On the night of the 29th, four sections of the sculpture were moved by the students to the square. Because truck drivers were threatened with a revocation of their license by the authorities if they were found to be helping with the transportation of the statue, students had to use flatbed tricycles to move the work. It became a processional event. Scaffolding was erected on site in order to piece the statue together and the final touches were laid on the statue. The next day, a man and a woman were selected from the crowd to pull down the stream of red and blue banners that covered the head of the statue during the unveiling ceremony.
The statue was meant to break the north-south axis of the square, which connected the Monument to the People’s Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong to the Tiananmen of the Forbidden City where Mao’s portrait was hung. This was framed in the media as a confrontation between the Goddess representing ideals of the democracy and the people against the monolithic machinery of the party embodied in the iconic image of Chairman Mao.
A written statement accompanied the statue, written in calligraphy on a banner placed near the statue. One of the student from the Broadcast Academy was selected to read the declaration. An excerpt of it exhorts,
The statue of the Goddess of Democracy is made of plaster, and of course cannot stand here forever. But as the symbol of the people’s hearts, she is divine and inviolate. Let those who would sully her beware: the people will not permit this! …On the day when real democracy and freedom come to China, we must erect another Goddess of Democracy here in the Square, monumental, towering, and permanent. We have strong faith that that day will come at last.
- Declaration of the Art students on the Goddess of Democracy in Minzhu Han, Cries For Democracy: Writings and Speeches from the 1989 Chinese Democracy Movement. Oxford, England: Princeton University Press, 1990.
The document was signed by the eight art academies that sponsored the creation of the statue: The Central Academies of Fine Arts, Arts and Crafts, Drama, and Music; the Beijing Film Academy; the Beijing Dance Academy; the Academy of Chinese Local Stage Arts; and the Academy of Traditional Music.
Tsao Tsing-yuan (1994). Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry, ed. Essay “The Birth of the Goddess of Democracy” from Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press. pp. 140–7.
S. Sudjojono, Perusing the Poster, 1956, oil on canvas, 109 x 140cm, OHD Museum.
It’s election season in Indonesia. Nothing captures the churning and anticipation underneath a façade of pensive deliberation like the 1956 unfinished painting of Sudjojono. Here is a cross section of Indonesian society, shown to be perusing election posters and the many promises they make at the first legislative election since its independence. It would also be the only election held before Sukarno ushered in an era of guided democracy.
The painting shows a crowd, presumably milling about on a nondescript street. It is implied that many of the central figures are transfixed by a wall of posters bearing messages, news, public notices that we don’t see. These were, presumably, to be painted at a later date and occupy a marginal space in relation to the focus of the painting on the diverse or majmuk crowd, coming from all walks of life.
The attention to figurative details is remarkable, laborious, and patient - for this was the phase when Sudjonono propounded a naturalistic approach to realism. What survives however is an unfinished work that captures two seemingly disjunctive energies. We have the portrayal of the everyman on the one hand, rendered in a naturalistic manner. Surrounding the figures, however, are the loose swath of paints scribbled in an almost graffiti-like manner. These seemed to be spaces to be filled in with details at a later date, but was never done so. Was it because the changing political circumstances in the following year?
Ironically, the painting offers us an expressionistic window into a world filled with fervid possibilities. The scrawls, sketches and wash of ochres that sit on the top left corner of the canvas, makes visible within the pictorial field, the painter’s active involvement in projecting not just a textual but also a visual awareness of politics. Here the space of discourse is rendered incoherent but visible.
This space is of a different tenor today. The wit of trying to frame the current Presidential election to the climactic story of the great war between the Kaurava and Pandawa clans in the Hindu Epic Mahabharata is captured in the chart below that’s been making its round. An anonymous commenter on social media, ask: ‘So who is the puppet master [dalang] in this instance? The people?’
More to the point, I’ve been fascinated by a recent puzzle that has been making its rounds too. The chattering class of Indonesia’s social media has turned to 7 April cover of Tempo magazine, which has become a guessing game of the upcoming alliances that will be formed around the Presidential election. Below is an attempt to compile some of the guessworks as well as record some of the developments since then. Huge sections have been lifted off this website. This is supplemented by the lively conversations and discussions one can find on other forums and social media outlets.
The presidential candidates can be identified by their wearing of white shirts. As election inches closer, it has becoming increasingly common for them to wear a neutral colour shirt instead of their party uniform. This symbolises their neutrality and ability to accommodate other parties with different ideologies, whether Islamic or Nationalist, as this is a requisite to garner enough support from smaller parties in order to form a strong voting bloc to win the election. The two Presidential contenders Jokowi and Prabowo are playing the seruling - a wind musical instrument. They are surrounded by their supporters.
1. The figure on the far side is Jokowi. His left hand gestures the Sign of the Horns, associating him as a self-professed Metallica fan. He stands beneath two landmarks that have been identified as Mandarin Oriental, located near the Hotel Indonesia Roundabout. Some suggests that it symbolises the support Jokowi is receiving from foreign business interests, but alone with the other buildings is more likely simply using the iconic Jakarta skyline as a backdrop.
2. However, next to the Mandarin Oriental building is the Ministry of State Owned Enterprises (BUMN) building. This apparently holds greater symbolic import. This is because presidential campaign costs money, and rummaging through BUMN projects are often means to acquire the required funds.
3. Foreign support for Jokowi is also visible. A number of Caucasian looking bystanders, cheers him on. The lady has been suggested to be either Queen Elizabeth II or Hilary Clinton.
4. Figure wearing the peci in a green suit represent support from an Islamic party. This was initially assumed to be Suryadharma Ali of PPP, however the party has since expressed support for Prabowo-Hatta. PKB is the current Islamist party supporting Jokowi.
5. The old man on the far left who cheered on unenthusiatically symbolises the old guards of PDI-P, the party which nominated Jokowi as Presidential candidate. He resembles Taufik Kiemas, who died the previous year. They are said to resent Jokowi’s nomination and hold steadfast onto the anti-neoliberal and anti-foreign ideology of Sukarno. There is also a headless person closer to Jokowi on the right. He too, is said to represent an older cadre whose support is half-hearted.
6. The white haired man in blue jacket standing in front of Jokowi who has his back against the viewer is said to be Hatta Rajasa. However, Hatta Rajasa has since thrown in his lot with Prabowo, running as vice Presidential candidate.
7. There’s a figure with an eye watching over Prabowo’s cluster, even as his body faces Jokowi. Some have speculated a Jewish conspiracy, but others have argued it is simply a representation of the secret intelligence at work. This has been suggested to be former head of National Intelligence Hendropriyono, who is one of the few Jokowi supporter amongst the military.
9. A silent red-eyed Chinese-looking lady stares silently at an engrossed Prabowo. She is suggested to represent the Chinese community waiting to hold him accountable for the ethnic killings during the 1998 riots. However, others have argued she is simply a female staff member of Prabowo.
10. Orange shirt guy with a crew cut is said to look like Ahmad Dhani, an Indonesian rock musician, who has come out in support of Prabowo and is a loyal Golkar supporter.
11. The chubby guy in a grey t-shirt, waving his left hand is said to look like the former President of the Prosperous Justice Party, Luthfi Hasan Ishaq. The person with the raised fist in blue shirt on the left is said to look like Anis Matta, who replaced Luthfi in 2013 when the latter was convicted of corruption. There is also another figure with the watch on the lower right corner, said to be Army General Moeldoko, with a penchant for luxury watches.
12. Then there’s the editorial team of Tempo. These are the figures wearing glasses in shirts surrounding the Prabowo cluster. The bearded man in white shirt is identified as chief editor Arif Zukifli or Azul. The guy in orange shirt next to him is suposedly Budi Setyarso, senior editor on the national desk. Below Azul, is former chief editor Thoriq Hadad. It is a strange choice to place the editors within the cluster that is cheering for Prabowo, who played a role in arresting and silencing many student activists in 1998. It is suggested they are simply there as witness to the event.
Whever the chances of that survival, it may be worth mentioning that modernism as it develops in the postcolonial cultures has the oddest retroactive trajectories, and that these make up a parallel aesthetics. It is crucial that we should not see the modern as a form of determinism to be followed in the way of the stations of the cross to a logical end. That we should see our trajectories crisscrossing the western mainstream, and in their very disalignment from it making up the kind of ground which then restructures both the national and the international scene inevitably. Similarly, before the west periodizes the postmodern entirely in its own terms, and in that process also characterizes it, we have to introduce the transgressions due to our peripheral status. We should reperiodize the modern in terms of our historical experience of modernization and mark our modernisms, so that we may enter the postmodern at least potentially in our own terms.
- Geeta Kapur, ‘When Was Modernism in Indian Art’, Journal of Arts and Ideas, no. 27-28 (March 1995), p. 105.
Books on Amrita Sher-Gil
Amrita Sher-Gil and Vivan Sundaram, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self Portrait in Letters and Writings, 2010
Yashodhara Dalmia, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life, 2006
Geeta Doctor, Amrita Sher-Gil: A Painted Life, 2002
Tropical Still Lifes from the Dutch East Indies
1: Jan Daniel Beynon (1830-1877), Still Life: Tropical Fruits, 1872, oil on canvas, 112 x 147 cm, Private Collection in Indonesia.
2: Jan Daniël Beynon, Indonesian Fruits, before 1945, School poster, 60 x 73 cm (based on original painting 1872, oil on canvas. Amsterdam- KIT Tropenmuseum.
3: Albert Eckhout, Still Life with Tropical Fruits, c. 1641, oil on canvas, 91 x 91 cm. Copenhagen- Nationalmuseet
4: Artist unknown (attributed to Albert Eckhout), East indies Market Scene, 1640, oil on canvas, 106 x 174.5 cm Amsterdam- Rijksmuseum
5: EJ Stapert-Koning, Indische Vruchten en Bloemen, 1862, oil on canvas, 49 x 63.5cm, Amsterdam- KIT Tropenmuseum
6: Woodbury and Page Studio, A Still Life with fruit, 1885-1900, photograph, Tropenmuseum Image Archive.
7: Isidore van Kinsbergen, Fruits, Game and Fowl in Batavia, 1865, albumin print, 26.5 x 23.5 cm, Leiden- KITLV Special Collections
8: Woodbury and Page, Still Life, 1880, Albumin print, 24.5 x 18.5 cm, Leiden- KITLV Special Collections.
Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, Still Life: A History. Translated by Russell Stockman, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
Susie Protschky, ‘Dutch still lifes and colonial visual culture in the Netherlands Indies 1800–1949’, Art History, 34:3 (2011): 510-35
Guess what? There was a Chinese artist working in the UK back in the eighteenth century. And he’s been hiding in one of the most famous paintings of artists ever - that of the founders of the Royal Academy in London!
The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy
Porcelain sculpture of a fashionable western lady holding a child
John Hamilton Mortimer
Portrait thought to be of Tan Che Qua
Tan-Che-Qua (alternatively Tan Chitqua or Tan Chetqua) (fl. 1769-1772, died 1796) was a Chinese artist who visited England from 1769 to 1772. He exhibited his work at the Royal Academy in 1770, and his clay models became fashionable in London for a short period, but returned to China in 1772…
Already in his middle years, Tan-Che-Qua arrived in London from Canton in August 1769 on the East Indiaman Horsendon. The Chinese authorities had given him permission to travel to Batavia (now Jakarta), but he came to England instead. He lived in lodgings on the Strand, where he worked as a clay modeller, creating busts and small statuettes. One of the only known surviving examples of his work is a figurine of physician Anthony Askew, held by the Royal College of Physicians.
He attended meetings at the Royal Academy of Arts, and exhibited work there in 1770. He was included in a group portrait of the Royal Academicians by Johann Zoffany; a portrait of Tan-Che-Qua, thought to be the one exhibited by John Hamilton Mortimer at the annual exhibition of the Incorporated Society of Artists in 1771, is held by the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The portrait was misidentified as Wang-y-tong, another Chinese visitor to London in the 1770s, who attended meetings of the Royal Society. He was also sketched by Charles Grignion the Elder.
He boarded the East Indiaman Grenville in March 1771 intending to return to China, but after a series of accidents the crew took against him and he disembarked at Deal, Kent. He returned to China in 1772. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported that he committed suicide in Canton in the mid-1790s. According to the RKD he died in Guangzhou in 1796.
Why on earth do us East Asian artsy types living in the UK not know about this guy? I mean, I can just imagine a story about his guy, working with clay and porcelain far away from home… did something happen that drove him to kill himself?
Oh, and then there’s this:
An Explanatory Discourse
Sir William Chambers used his name - Tan Chet-qua - for the narrator of his Explanatory Discourse by Tan Chet-qua, of Quang-Chew-fu, Gent., an appendix to the second edition (1773) of his book on Chinese gardening, Dissertation on Oriental Gardening (1772), a fanciful elaboration of contemporary English ideas about the naturalistic style of gardening in China.
Omer Adil (1868 - 1928), Studio for Girls, ca. 1915-20, oil on canvas, 81 x 118 cm, Mimar Sinan University, Museum of Painting and Sculpture, Istanbul.
This was a women-only studio at the School of Fine Arts in Istanbul. Look at the leisurely tête-à-tête of the two women at the far end of the room on the left of the picture. How comfortable they seemed. While the room was supposedly engaged in serious study, they appeared to be taking a break. There is something poignant about this understated moment of nonchalance. A scene of respite amidst the whirl of activities within the sun-lit room.
Paintings and history texts are our friends in the women’s quarters,
Our modest skill at poetry composition takes us beyond worldly affairs.
Trimming the lamp wick, we sigh to see midnight approach.
Holding our books as we sleep, we can’t wait for morning to come.
The moon at dawn shuts off our pleasant dreams.
With the morning bell comes the sound of chirping birds.
Our beautiful eyebrows outshine the color of the mirror,
Our sleek hair puts other scholars to shame.
- Wu Qi 吳琪, At Morning Sitting in the Study and Writing with My Younger Sister, mid 17th century.
Guangzhou street life. 19th century. Trade paintings from the Peabody Essex Museum.
Guangzhou along with Ningbo, Shanghai, Fuzhou and Xiamen, were the five treaty ports opened to foreign trade following the conclusion of the first Opium War by the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. These ports permitted legal extraterritoriality to treaty partners. China ceded Hong Kong to the British too, in perpetuity.
A slice of life documentary on Shantiniketan, a rural township in West Bengal where Rabindranath Tagore established Vishva Bharati University.
Producer : Mohan Bhavnani
Director: A.P.Sinha , K.N.Samarth
Year : 1949
I thought one day I would get the convoluted story straight about Dong Xiwen's painting, Founding of a Nation (1953). Here’s a simplification of the chronology that defines the politics of history painting in modern China. The practice of erasing persons from historical evidences has art historical precedence, the term is called damnatio memoriae. However, I wonder if there’s a term that would describe their restitution?
1953 - Original painting commissioned for the newly established Museum of Revolutionary History. Its distinguishing feature was that it had only two microphone stands in front of Mao.
1955 (1st Image) - Revised for the National Art Exhibition. Gao Gang (the bespectacled man closest to Chairman Mao seen in Image 3) was excised when he was purged from the party. This version was the most commonly reproduced, as the painting was exhibited in the Moscow joint exhibition of art from 12 socialist countries in 1958.
1967 (2nd Image) - Because of the Cultural Revolution, a second revision took place. Liu Shaoqi (the tall figure left of Madame Song Qingling) was excised, initially to be replaced by Lin Biao, who rose to prominence during this period. Dong Xiwen insisted this would be anachronistic, as such a compromise was struck, so that no figure replacement was made. Instead the obscured figure standing right of Zhou Enlai in the original painting, who was supposed to be Dong Biwu, was brought forward. This painting remains today as the final version in Dong Xiwen’s own hand.
1972 - Dong Xiwen was unable to rectify the painting due to illness. Instead, a copy by Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) graduates Zhao Yi and Jin Shangyi was commissioned, with the removal of Lin Boqu (white hair man at the extreme left of the painting) from the painting,
1976 - Dong Xiwen passed away from cancer. End of Cultural Revolution.
1980 (3rd Images) - Government respected the wishes of Dong Xiwen’s family that the artist’s painting should not be repainted by others. Because Jin Shangyi was abroad at that time, another graduate from CAFA Yen Zhenduo, was hired to revise Zhao Yi and Jin Shangyi version. Gao Gang, Liu Shaoqi and Lin Boqu were reinstated.
References and Additional Resources
Julia Frances Andrews, Painters and Politics in China, 1949 - 1979, University of California Press, 1994. Click here for the section on Dong Xiwen’s Founding of a Nation.
Chang-Tai Hung, ‘Oil Paintings and Politics: Weaving a Heroic Tale of the Chinese Revolution’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Volume 49, Issue 4, Oct 2007, pp. 783-814.
UC Berkeley panel on Art and Politics in the Cultural Revolution
Pankash Mishra’s insightful but despairing op-ed of Narendra Modi and the BJP’s electoral sweep has moved me to dig up a passage from Geeta Kapur’s sharp assessment on the political exigencies of India’s modernism as an incomplete project with present day purpose and resonance. First published in 1993, ‘When was Modernism in Indian Art?’ was extremely prescient of where India was heading. It almost reads like a prophetic confirmation of Mishra’s current observation that the climate ethno-religious conservatism in India did not simply happen overnight but was accretive. Those who recognised the signs, would have saw this day coming. It does seem that for the situation today, Geeta’s essay offers a direction through the location of a specific historical attitude and artistic trajectory in order to summon cultural workers towards new forms of address.
Nationalism along with socialism may for the moment be lost causes, but as for the more dangerous forms of totalization- religious fanaticism to be followed no doubt with a racial one - these grow apace and will not be contained by postmodernism’s preferred metaphors of schizophrenia, the unassimilable feature of nihilist freedom… With the politics of emergent ethnicities, with a noncontextual appropriation of traditions and the obscurantism of religious militancy, we are increasingly held hostage to a fundamentalist or racial consciousness: at which point it is good to recall that the modernist project was engaged in an affirmative act of desacralization. It was engaged in a decoding and a secularisation of the works of the past and the present. this is of the greatest importance in evaluating the significance today of that modernism. Except that in India it looks as if there is a modernism that almost never was, neither in terms of the secular nor in terms of the avant-garde sublime. Where, then, shall we seek our position except in a lived historical experience of an imploding sense of sovereignty?
… Within art practice, the terms of discourse for modern India would have to hold together a complex subjectivity which cannot be divided along the tradition/modernity axis; nor can we privilege any further, the virtues of authenticity once such essentializing categories have been brought under scrutiny. It may be useful to place another stake on the truth of modernity within a deconstructed matrix of the nation: to position it like an elegiac metaphor in the wake of own own deeply ambivalent passage to the globalizing politics of the postmodern age. The more political among the Indian artists may be right after all in believing that the still-unresolved national question accounts for modernism’s lasting possession of the subversive power that it has lost elsewhere. For that which is forsaken has not only a special symbolic value but a hermeneutic function as well.
- Geeta Kapur, 'When Was Modernism in Indian Art’, Journal of Arts and Ideas, no. 27-28 (March 1995), pp. 125- 126.
* Ramkinkar Baij, Threshing, 1957, oil on canvas, 121.7 x 89 cm, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi.
That their authorship is usually unknown is deceptive—they are, in fact, the product of real-life creators, intentions and processes—but also increasingly irrelevant in an age when authorship is becoming ever blurrier via the vehicles of visual culture itself (think of the internet). And of course, through their appropriation in photography, visual art, cinema and so on, neon signs have come to embody and represent a breadth of modernity’s contradictions: the glamour and grit, the confidence and fragility, the mass spectacle, and the alienation that lurks beneath.
- Aric Chen, Curator of Hong Kong Neon Signs
Photograph of the opening of Manifestasi Dua Seni (Manifestation of Two Arts), 1970, at the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (National Language Institute), Kuala Lumpur.
May 13 1969 is the defining coming-of-age story of Malaysia. This image is striking because it reveals an aspect of Redza Piyadasa’s sculpture created in 1970 that has hitherto been lost in subsequent displays of the reconstruction of the work. The sculpture assembles an upright coffin placed above a square mirror at its base. Fragments of the Malaysian flag is painted across its black body. It was meant to capture the tragic profile of the race riot that occurred in the previous year.
In this photograph of the opening ceremony, one immediately notices the that audiences were fixated on two slab of texts stuck to the floor. The original sculpture was destroyed in 1971, shortly after the exhibition; and the text was not displayed together with the subsequent reconstruction. In my view, the text is significant because it situates the work within an exhibition context that has broader implication of the conceptual strategies adopted by artists who participated in the Manifestasi Dua Seni (Manifestation of Two Arts) exhibition in 1970.
The exhibition brought together artists and poets in a workshop environment under the premise that artists who were trained under a variety of modernist idioms in art schools overseas would be able to engage with the Malaysian context through the local literature. The exhibition therefore signposted an early attempt to reorientate the arts towards its potential to address pressing cultural and political issues over the the universalist concerns of high modernism. One of the outcome of this within the art community was the subsequent formulation of a National Cultural Policy by 1971.
Redza Piyadasa’s sculpture could therefore be seen as a rather literal pronouncement of the death of a geo-body and its ideals. But when viewed as a work with an accompanying textual poem, the conceptual parameter of the artwork changes in light of this information. This aspect has not been sufficiently explored in scholarship of the artwork. How the written word framed and conversed with the sculptural form enriches the cross-disciplinary and collaborative dimension of the artwork. More so, it locates the practice within a curatorial experiment that augurs a contemporary moment in Southeast Asian art - one that marks the dissolution of the discrete modernist medium, towards cross-disciplinary experimentation.
A quick search in the newspaper archives reveals that the poem which Piyadasa chose to respond to was Usman Awang’s Kambing Hitam -Sebelum dan Sesudah Mei 13 (Black Goat - Before and After May 13). In this manner, one could almost say that part of Piyadasa’s struggle was to give sculptural form to this tragic overture. It was a deeply cynical verse matched by an equally cynical sculptural form. The subject was stubbornly pessimistic. Even so, this conversation between a poet and artist demonstrated that the conceptual vernacular was capable of operating as a cathartic beacon, premised on a dialogic expression that would define a new direction in art making towards the contemporary. Sometimes, a tragedy opens creative doors.
The poem and an attempt at providing an English translation is produced below.
Redza Piyadasa, May 13, 1969, 1970, exhibited at the 7th Gwangju Biennale, 2008. Reconstructed in 2006 for the National Heritage Board, Singapore.
Kambing Hitam (sebelum dan sesudah Mei 13)
by Usman Awang
sepinggan nasi di stadium negara
lima belas ringgit cuma
sengih para menteri goncang-goncang tangan
- ada komentar dalam hati
para tauke gendut bibir berlemak
bersama menyanyikan lagu Berjaya
untuk mereka yang BERJAYA!
secupak beras di ibu kota
semangkuk darah harganya
nilai pasaran jalan raja muda
- tidak ada tukaran wang hari ini
harga besi mengejut tinggi
pembeli-penjual saling berebutan
rumah jadi hitam langit hitam
merah senja ibu kota
merah warna jalan raya
merah baju si anak malang
menteri demi menteri di tv
- demokrasi telah mangkat
permakamannya di mana saja, di mana saja pemabuk politik ganja
- taridra 13 mei
mahkamah sepi para hakim kehilangan palu
kini dibentuk mahkamah di jalan-jalan raya
masing-masing pendakwaraya menghujah tanpa bahasa
para hakim menjelma dengan wig merah
saling menjatuhkan hukuman
- sorak-sorai para juri tanpa kerusi.
para penggubah dendang Berjaya ke mana hilangnya
para tauke bibir-berlemak nyaman bermahjung
poker jadi perlu mempertajam mata dan otak
ada rindu pada kuda entah makan gerangan tidak
orang kayangan makan angin keluar negeri
- negara kita makmur!
rakyat si buruh si miskin menggadai nyawa percuma
biskut sekeping rebutan anak-anak lapar
beras segenggam seperiuk kanjinya makan sekeluarga.
kekuasaan negara berteriak mencari
“di mana dia kambing hitam
pemabuk politik-ganja beramai menjawab,
“kambing hitam di sini
ahli fikir negara merumuskan penyelesaian
jamuan teh makan durian
makanlah buah tempatan
di meja muhibah di kerusi muhibah
sesama mereka bertanya besar di akhbar mereka.
betapa larisnya buku 13 mei
ilham dan mimpi seorang wali
terkutuklah barang siapa mengutukinya
si perkauman si komunis si ultra si gangster
rakyat si buruh si miskin gali kubur sendiri
di gua bimbang di penjara takut
sebelum dan sesudah 13 mei.
Ibu kota, Mei 1969
Burning of Redza Piyadasa’s May 13, 1969, in 1971. Photograph in the collection of Sulaiman Esa. First published here.
The Black Goat (before and after May 13)
by Usman Awang
a plate of rice at the National Stadium
only cost fifteen ringgit
the grinning ministers shook hands
- a comment lurks within the heart
those burly bosses with fat lips
come together to sing the song ‘Success’
for those who are successful.
a cupak* of rice at the nation’s capital
is the price of a bowl of blood
that’s the market value on Raja Muda Street
- money changers are closed today
a spike in the price of iron
buyers and sellers fought over
black house and black sky
the red twilight of a nation’s capital
the redness of the streets
the red on the shirt of victims
minister after minister come on TV
- democracy is dead
bury it anywhere you will, all of you who are addicted to politics
- the ballet of 13 May
in the silent courtroom, the judge loses his gavel
and the persecutors argue without rhetoric
each becomes a judge wearing his red wig
passing out sentences
- a chorus of jury without seats.
the song composer of 'Success’, where did he go?
the fat-lipped boss plays
a game of poker to sharpen one’s eyes and mind
some thought of their horses, whether they are fed or not
the palace folks departing for vacation overseas
- our country is prosperous!
the workers and the poor pawn their cheap lives
hungry children clamour over a piece of biscuit
a handful of rice, a pot of starch, fill the stomachs of a family.
those in power shout out for
'where is the black goat [sheep]
those drunk on politics replied,
’ the black goat is here
its name is communal politics
its name is communism
its name is extremism
its name is gang fighting
thus summarise the intellectuals of the nation
over a cup of tea and durian
eat more local fruits
on a table and chair, they sit together
wondering aloud to themselves, amongst themselves
a book on May 13 becomes a bestseller
this is an inspiration and dream of a prophet
those who criticise it deserves to be mocked
those communalists, those communists, those extremists, those gangsters
the workers and the poor dig their own grave
within the dark cave of worry and fear
the effect of a drug called politics
before and after May 13.
Capital of Malaysia, May 1969
(* traditional unit of measurement, 4 cupak equals to 1 gantang, which is approximately 2.8kg)
PDF copy of Heirs to World Culture, a book on Indonesian cultural history from 1950 - 1965, is available free online for download. The book includes contributions by Keith Foulcher, Liesbeth Dolk, Hairus Salim HS, Tony Day, Budiawan, Maya H.T. Liem, Jennifer Lindsay, Els Bogaerts, Melani Budianta, Choirotun Chisaan, I Nyoman Darma Putra, Barbara Hatley, Marije Plomp, Irawati Durban Ardjo, Rhoma Dwi Aria Yuliantri and Michael Bodden.