Philosophy in Wood

Opening exhibition at the Center for Art & Rehabilitative Energies, Inc.  a 501 (c)(3) non profit private foundation starting on November 5th and running through December 23rd, 2017.

 

Dragon Zodiac

Wandering around the towns and villages at the foot of Mount Huangshan in east China, visitors might be astonished to find the well-preserved centuries-old architecture revealing the exquisite folk artistry of wood carving. Over the past two decades in particular, the art of wood carving, an important element of Chinese culture has drawn the attention of an increasing number of visitors, collectors and researchers of Chinese art, folk culture, local history and architecture.

Huizhou is the ancient name of a six county region including Xiunin, Sherxian, Yixian, Jixi, Qimen and Wuyuan during the Ming (1368-1644) thru Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Huizhou culture is distinguished by the Guizhou business community, the zin’n School of Confucianism, Xin’an School of traditional Chinese medicine, Xin’an School of Chinese ink painting, Hui School of printmaking, sculpture and architecture, the Guizhou brands of Chinese cuisine and tea art, and the local opera performed in the Hizhou dialect. The Guizhou business community rose in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 317-410) and reached it’s golden age in the early Qing Dynasty. It ruled the commercial world across the country with a close-knit community bound by a similar cultural background through guild halls located throughout the Far East.

From the very beginning, Guizhou wood carving, widely used in residential buildings, ancestral halls, archways, temples, gardens, ancient private schools and pagodas has been an integral part of local art and culture. The folk art of wood carving has been described, by many as, “an epitome of the local culture.”

Most wood carvings can be read as an embodiment of Confucianism.

The simple and vividly portrayed images and stories helped spread moral ideas among ordinary Chinese. The concept of a harmonious, all-generations-under-one-roof lifestyle, was also highly valued in ancient times. Families with a long history of different generations living together carved their cheerful impressions of family life into pictures on walls, archways, panels, screens and beams. Concepts of diligence, academic brilliance, literature, love stories, happiness, fortune and longevity. They also depicted animals like bats, deer, toads and cranes, all auspicious symbols in the eyes of ordinary Chinese. Other subjects widely used in woodcarvings included honor, loyalty, integrity and justice.

In the early days woodcarving was rendered in a more simple and rough manner. The work became more and more demanding and time- consuming in the late Qing Dynasty when the house owners asked woodcarving artists, to bring to life more detailed, exaggerated and complex images.

The wood carvings have well-planned themes generally depicting scenes describing well- known Chinese classic poems. Sometimes auspicious patterns and mythical figures, celestial beings, personified stars of the gods and dramatic moments, with at least three figures, with different postures and facial expressions, from the classic novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is known to all Chinese.

There are also symbolic and metaphorical images suggesting hope for a bright future for the family, and while a single image of a peach indicates longevity, the image of a pomegranate indicates fertility. Combined use of the images of a beehive and a monkey, read as fenghou in Chinese, indicates the wish for success in a political career. These loved and well-protected elegant decorations are and were an important vehicle for moral education.

This collection of gold guilted wood carvings were obtained on several trips to the Orient, in particular Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and the Chinese community in the old city of Macau, Malaysia.

The carvings are from a single piece of wood, after being carved by hand the wood is preserved by a red gesso-like paint. Then the surface is covered with a glue specifically designed for adhering gold leaf to the finished surface. Being exposed, over time, to smoke, dust, rain and even mud, most of the works have been lightly cleaned with small brushes to restore the work to its original state.

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