Space, movement and Chinese handscroll--reading Xia Gui and Huang Gongwang
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My thesis discusses the significance of the horizontal format for Chinese paintings in the 13th and 14th centuries. Focusing on the issues of continuity and intimacy that are fundamental to the horizontal format, I intend to examine the functions of such a format in helping these two artists to either create the illusionistic space effect or explore the more modernist and analytical problem of spatiality in their two exceptionally beautiful long hand scrolls. In A Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mountains by the Southern Song dynasty academy painter Xia Gui, I find the issue of “view” particularly relevant: the panoramic view organized through both the atmospheric and the aerial perspectives has been very effective in helping construct the desired “poetic spaces” through dramatic juxtaposition of and rhythmic alternation between disjunctive elements of void and solid, near and far. Huang Gongwang’s Dwelling in Fuchun Mountains, on the other hand, demonstrate a more conscious effort of explore the reality of spatial relations, and a consciousness about the role of speed, the notion of process as well as the materiality of mediums and marks for our exploration of the poetics of space. Ultimately, I attempt to relate the physical continuity of the works to their temporal and material continuity as well as the intimacy of the artist’s hand.