Liu Dan: New Landscapes and Old Masters – Ashmolean Museum Oxford

The Study Day explores Chinese contemporary ink painting in general and in particular the paintings of the artist Liu Dan which are on display in the Chinese Painting Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum until the 26th of February 2017.

The topics covered include the materials Liu Dan uses and the signification of his calligraphic inscriptions. A dedicated viewing of works from the Eastern and Western art reserve collection will allow deeper understanding of some of the subjects discussed, and compare Liu Dan’s work with that of other Chinese artists.

Programme details

10. 55 – 11.30 AM Contemporary Chinese ‘Ink’

Within the last decade, ‘contemporary ink’ has emerged as a distinct category of practice in contemporary Chinese art. Replacing the retrograde term ‘traditional Chinese painting’, ink assertively claims its position to counter the market dominance of non-ink—oil painting, mixed media, installations and performances —in critical discourse, in museum exhibitions and in the art market. This presentation will explore the origins of ‘ink’ as medium, as gesture and as marker of identity and nation. How do contemporary artists such as Liu Dan work with the possibilities of ‘ink’ in its myriad forms, and to represent a Chinese art that is simultaneously historical and contemporary?

Nixi Cura, Programme Director, Christie’s Education, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow and co-founder of the Arts of China Consortium.

11.35 AM – 12.10 PM Art History in Liu Dan’s Landscape

Liu Dan’s paintings are at once startlingly modern and apparently traditional. This talk will present some of the historical aspects of Chinese art that lie behind his work, from materials and brushwork to concepts of landscape. It will consider in particular how Liu Dan’s own approach to landscape has developed over the years. This includes looking at the collecting practices of artists and scholars since the Tang dynasty (618-906), and the works of painters in Yuan Dynasty China and Renaissance Italy.

Shelagh Vainker, Curator of Chinese Art, Ashmolean Museum

12.30 – 13.05 PM Miraculous Creations of the Western Mountains: The Qianlong Emperor and his Writings on Stones

This talk will be in three parts. First, we will explore the part played by the Qianlong Emperor (r.1736-1795) in the culture of collecting stones and rocks as objects of contemplation and connoisseurship in eighteenth-century China. Next, the importance of this “stone culture” in Qing dynasty (1644-1911) fiction will be examined, including a look at the significance of stones in the great Chinese novel of manners The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin. The Qianlong Emperor wrote as many as 42,000 poems, on all manner of subjects, and a discussion of his poems about stones – some of which appeared as inscriptions on the stones themselves – will form the final part of the presentation.

Dr Paul Bevan, Research Associate and Teaching Fellow, SOAS and Tutor in Chinese at the University of Oxford

14.10 – 16.00 PM

Guided visit of the Liu Dan: New Landscapes and Old Masters exhibition (Gallery 11)

Viewing of Chinese rock paintings from the reserve collection, Jameel Centre

Viewing of Italian Renaissance prints at the Western Art Print Room

Saturday 25 February 2017


Lecture Theatre Ashmolean Museum

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