Making and Breaking a Cantonese Art World in 1800-1850

Talk by Dr. Yeewan Koon, Associate Professor, Department of Fine Arts at The University of Hong Kong. A light lunch will be served following the programme.
 
What are the things that are necessary in forming an art world? Why was there a desire to make a place a center of culture? These are questions that were as relevant in early 19th century Guangzhou as they are today in Hong Kong. Looking back in history, this talk will map out some of the basic networks that were being formed between patrons, artists, and institutions, and in particular on how in-migrants (non-Guangzhou natives) were also responsible for driving many cultural projects that defined a Cantonese identity in art. 

But just as an infrastructure was being made, it was also being dismantled with the coming of the Opium War (1839-1842) and the Taping Rebellion (1850-1864). With a focus on Cantonese artist, Su Renshan, Koon examines in detail Su’s experimental paintings. These include aggressive juxtapositions of vernacular and literary themes, angry graffiti like inscriptions, and an inventive reinterpretation of texts, symbols, and images that accused Confucian institutions, the backbone of scholarly ink art, of betraying the people. Koon also shows how through his paintings, Su was asking the most important of questions: what is the role of a scholar-artist when the people can no longer rely on government to lead the way?

Image: Zhang Bao, View of Guangzhou from Images of a Floating Raft, 1833.
Image: Zhang Bao, View of Guangzhou from Images of a Floating Raft, 1833.
Courtesy of Yeewan Koon.


 
Dr. Yeewan Koon is Associate Professor of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Hong Kong. Her book, A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and The Politics of Painting in Early 19th Century Guangdong (2014) maps out the changes in painting during the time of the Opium War. She is currently working on new research examining emulations and fabrications of paintings that challenge the ideals of their originals.

Mapping Asia is an unfolding publication, exhibition, and programme series presented by Asia Art Archive, that explores multiple vantage points from which to consider Asia, looking beyond inherited boundaries, histories, and political and economic systems to entanglements and connections across time, sites, and geographies.

 

 

Relevant content

A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in Early 19th-Century Guangdong
A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in Early 19th-Century Guangdong
Reference

A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in Early 19th-Century Guangdong

KOON Yeewan, 官綺雲
2014

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