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Landscapes of China, 1980-88: Between tradition and modernity

This exhibition presents a particular moment of Chinese engraving between 1980 and 1988. From 1978, after the death of Mao Zedong (1976), China began a period of reforms characterized by openness to the West and economic development . The engraving artists bear witness to this transformation by producing original and surprising images. The diversity of subjects and styles reveals, in these engravings, the telescoping between traditional life and modern world.

The 34 works presented here were selected from a set of 87 engravings, given by the artists at the Musée de Gravelines in 1988, with the support of the Cultural Association Europe Asia, Paris.

Although the Chinese invented print, nearly 1600 years ago, and inspired in particular the famous Japanese prints, Chinese engraving remains relatively unknown.

Around the 80s, wood engraving was still practiced in the workshops. It is produced by engravers who often work as teachers in art schools. Far from avant-gardes and in the context of an almost non-existent art market, these engravings appear, for a time, to be a hinge between classical painting and folk art.

*** Also on view "Meandering paths, Paris-Amsterdam - Wendelien Schönfeld / Pascale Hémery" (April 7 - September 16, 2018)

W. Schönfeld and P. Hémery share the acuteness of a look at the world, the choice of figuration for the sensible transcription of reality. Their way of apprehending creation naturally favored their meeting. The museum presents in parallel the graphic work of the two artists. Beyond figuration, the exhibition Pathways of the Cross reveals a careful look at everyday landscapes.

Pascale travels to major cities, New York, London, Naples, Marseille. His universe is built, most often inspired by architecture. The man, invisible in these images, is nevertheless present in his views of cities. His presence is suggested by the way he lives in space and changes it constantly. It is through man that the city spreads, both ordered and anarchic. The human presence is also the point of view that the artist carries. P. Hémery is fond of the plunging views, the complex constructions in which the observer makes his way. The artist transfigures his vision by paying particular attention to the light, for the construction of forms.

For W. Schönfeld, the meeting is at the center of his research, the discovery of a place, the feeling of an atmosphere through the human presence. Indeed, she declares to make double portraits, that of a person and his environment. She represents people at work, close relatives in their intimacy. His landscapes are in motion by the play of lights, the changing skies, reflections along the water. Attempt to remember the moment. Each color takes its place in the composition, according to the artist "colors play together and must be orchestrated", thus expressing the synthesis of lived moments.

W. Schönfeld and P. Hémery practice different mediums but have in common to return constantly to the color woodcut. This technique may seem complex, for example, it requires multiplying the boards, the superposition of the colors constructing the image. This practice requires anticipating each step and may seem anachronistic in the era of rapid reproduction of images. However, it is the constraints of engraved wood that favor the production of the image.

For these artists the first discipline is that of the practice of drawing, it is underlying the engravings. Then the wood leads them to interpret the line, to propose a synthetic vision. The constraints of the material, the sense of the fiber, the radical choices implied by the cutting of forms, participate in this commitment. Useless details and decorative effects do not resist gouge. The harmony is built as and when passages under the press, where each color and each form take their rightful place.

Relevant research areas: East Asia, 20th Century, Relief printing

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