June 29, 2008

Gold and Silk

I was surprised to find a touch of the Silk Road right here in Melbourne this week, in a fine gallery on the edges of Bridge St. Distinctive paintings by Chinese artist Huixuan Zhao are on display at Dickersons, and it's worth taking a closer look.

Miss Huixuan casts a youthful eye on ancient stories. The technique on display is called Gongbi, literally meaning "fine brush". The style originates in the Han Dynasty, very early in the period of China's evolution towards becoming a unified country, around 200BC - a time when both Rome and Julius Caesar was ascending.

The works on display by Huixuan reflect the very essence of China in that period, a tale of gold and silk. This was the golden era of the Silk Route, when money, culture and religion was coming into China from the west, and silk was being sold from the east.

The delicate and articulate creations of Huixuan are painted on silk, with restrained application of colour and subtle layers of gold. Within each work an echo of the Silk Road can also be found. Buddhist symbolism, Confucian wisdom and Han aesthetics. Some works even hint at the Arabic influences further out west, while others evoke the Chinese art of balancing yin and yang.

As a collection it is irresistible. Her themes encompass marriage, contemplation, devotion, enlightenment and passion. Elements are layered within each work with great depth and intention. For such a young artist to compose an array of ancient reflections is worthy of recognition.


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