Happy Long Nian, and see ya on February 1st !
Three more days till the water dragon comes roaring in – here’s wishing all my readers a great long nian, or dragon year, ahead !
Images here: a couple of Chen Rong’s absolutely sublime dragons. Chen Rong 陳容 was a Southern Song painter, famed for his portrayal of these mythological beasties, and the Nine Dragons 九龍圖 scroll, currently in the collection of the MFA Boston, is considered his masterpiece. According to one description:
This long handscroll depicts, as indicated by the title, nine dragons, which appear among clouds, waves, wind, and cliffs, executed in monochrome ink on paper with some subtle touches of red color.
The handscroll displays a great variety and creativity in painting technique, a combination of seemingly random and spontaneous application of ink with highly controlled and articulated brush technique. For example, some areas of the painting display the use a piece of cloth to apply ink or ink splashes, whereas rock surfaces or dragons’ scales are executed with a more controlled brush. These observable features match with descriptions of Chen Rong’s painting practice, which report that he painted spontaneously when drunk and used his cap to smear ink on the painting surface. Chen Rong himself refers to this practice in his inscription as well.
The overall effect of the painting is one of continuous movement and energy throughout the scroll, from which the dragons emerge and into which they disappear.
Dragons have been a motif in Chinese art and visual culture from early times onward carrying a variety of meanings, such as embodying the male Yang principle, controlling rain and weather, or as a symbol of the emperor.
Chen Rong’s handscroll can be placed into a Daoist context of depicting dragons as implied in his own inscription and in the colophons added to the scroll by Daoist priests from the 12th to the 14th century. The emphasis is on the power and transformative character of the dragons, while the motifs of rain and thunder appear throughout the painting and the colophons.
(The write-up is from UChicago’s Center for the Art of East Asia. For an awesome online scroll viewer of the entire 11-metre long painting, see their page here.)
In other news, our regular arts bloggers’ meetup is back ! It’s happening on Feb 1, at 8 pm. (That’s a Wednesday evening.)
As usual, we’re being hosted by the nice folk at The Pigeonhole cafe, who deserve a big coo-out for their continued hospitality.
And no worries – co-host and meetup regular (and, now, new mum!) Notabilia will be there. It won’t be just me making people introduce themselves ten times over …
1. February 1st.
2. 8 pm.
3. The Pigeonhole. 52/53 Duxton Rd.
4. Don’t bring any mandarin oranges, ’cause everyone will be sick of them.