World in Miniature: Dialogue between Zhang Hong (1577-ca. 1652) and Michael Lee (1972- )
Museum für Asiatische Kunst
Gallery of Chinese Painting
The installation 'World in Miniature' presents works on the theme of the garden by two artists: 17th-century Chinese artist Zhang Hong and living artist Michael Lee. Despite their art's very different appearance, what the two artists have in common is their documentary approach and quest for new ways to depict the subject.
In China, landscape gardening is a fine art. Deeply rooted in the art of painting, calligraphy, and poetry, the garden is not only an expression of the emotional life of its owner, but also the coherence and harmony between man and nature. The garden is seen as a world in miniature.
Zhang Hong (born 1577, died after 1652) was a professional painter of the city of Suzhou and was famous for his topographical landscape paintings. His work represents a markedly new stylistic direction in 17th-century Chinese painting. Instead of creatively recycling, to a greater or lesser extent, the conventional forms and styles of the old masters, as was customary of his day, Zhang Hong sought to create a faithful depiction of nature in many of his works. Pivotal to this development was his masterpiece album of the Zhi Garden (Garden of Repose), which depicts the scenery of a typical literati garden and demonstrates his unique artistry in the representation of light and atmosphere, rendered in an unusual variety of perspectives.
Parallel to Zhang Hong's works, Singaporean artist Michael Lee (born 1972) has created a series of large-scale prints bearing the title 'Horticultural Hotspots', which are devoted to drastic, socially relevant yet not necessarily obvious topics linked with the topology of parks and gardens.
Michael Lee's work explores urban space and the memories, the losses, and even the fantasies associated with the same. His digital prints cover the length and breadth of the wall and highlight five different topics: protest, guerrilla gardening (or, in the broader sense, freedom), love, peace, and the concept of purity. The attention-grabbing, often provocative titles offer a point of entry into the complex texts and guide (and sometimes wilfully mislead) the viewer to penetrate deeper into the picture's content. As a result, the spectator comes to the growing realization that gardens and parks have more to offer than nature, harmony, and relaxation.
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