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07 Dec 2018 - 24 Feb 2019

West Lake Panorama celebrates the storied history of printmaking and woodblock technologies which have developed around Hangzhou’s West Lake area for the past millennium. Literally known as ‘water-printing’ (shuiyin), the technique of working with water-soluble colours and wooden blocks has been widely used throughout contemporary Chinese printmaking, as the process allows for complex forms of overprinting in order to reproduce a nearly infinite range of colours. The UMAG exhibition includes contemporary ink landscapes ranging from the mid-1980s to the present day, along with Ming and Qing dynasty woodblock editions. 

Since at least the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), West Lake has served as a wellspring of inspiration for painters, poets, musicians and printers, each engaged in representing the region, and in utilising the classically altered landscape as a basis for further creative work. Between the 9th and 12th centuries a series of artificial features—including causeways, islands and pagodas—were added to the area. Based on these physical ‘improvements’, West Lake has been celebrated as a canonical example of garden design and the symbiotic fusion of man and nature, as well as a physical embodiment of the Buddhist ideal of peacefulness.

West Lake stands as a living organism, sculpted by human hands and the natural world; it aligns with classical Chinese notions of beauty, landscape design and philosophical discovery. The related artists working in and around Hangzhou have distinguished themselves through their ability to combine traditional forms of woodcut printing with more modern colour palettes and abstract figures. Of particular note are prints produced by the China Art Academy’s Purple Bamboo Studio (Zizhuzhai), which is one of the few remaining traditional woodblock printing studios, and the very last located within a Chinese academy.

Artworks in the exhibition feature interpretations of the fabled West Lake landscape, including the reproduction of early forms of black-and-white woodblock printing, and the multicolour technique known as douban, developed late in the Ming dynasty. By dividing the woodblock into multiple pieces, the douban artist is able to print multiple colours with only a single block, and to replicate ink-wash painting styles normally associated with delicate brush work. Hybrid landscape constructions that meld European techniques, such as etching, with a definitively Chinese sense of style are also a hallmark of many prints emanating from the West Lake area. 

UMAG is deeply grateful to the Zhejiang Art Museum for their collaboration on this exhibition.


Click here for the handout.

Click here for more images (Video produced by Learning Environment Services, ITS.)


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