Intricate Sculpture Carved Into an Olive Pit Almost 300 Years Ago

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Talk about impressive craftsmanship. In a stunning feat of virtuosity, the Chinese artist Ch’en Tsu-chang carved an astoundingly complex scene into a single olive pit in the year 1737. The tiny sculpture is complete with eight exquisite human figures enjoying a serene ride in the furnished interior of a boat with movable windows. To construct the piece, the artist, hailing from Kwangtung and having entered into the Imperial Bureau of Manufacture during the reign of emperor Yung-cheng, allowed his eye and hand to be guided by the natural shape of the olive pit.

Measuring 1.34 inches in length and .63 inches in height, the work was inspired by a poem titled “Latter Ode on the Red Cliff,” written by Su Tung-p’o some six hundred and fifty years before; it depicts the poet and his seven companions on one of his two journeys to Red Nose Cliff, the site of an epic battle that proceeded the poet-official by eight hundred years. On the helm of the boat, the artist meticulously engraved 300 characters from the beloved poem, whose moving lines served as an artistic theme well into the Qing Dynasty. Somehow, the delicate and intricate composition elevates the epic subject matter, making it all the more precious and highlighting its worth as a narrative worth careful representation. What better way to honor a poem about a natural landscape than by rendering its speaker in an organic substance?

The creation is now preserved and exhibited in Taipei City, Taiwan at the National Palace Museum of China. (via Lost at E Minor and Twisted Sifter)

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Jan De Vliegher’s Porcelain Plate Paintings

 

For his first solo exhibition in the United States, Belgian artist Jan De Vliegher creates a series of monumental paintings which reference the artist’s obsessive hunt for otherwise overlooked porcelain plates. United in their ritualistic and repetitive compositions the series of circular abstractions reveal De Vliegher’s fascination with the painting experience while also speaking to broader themes of contemporary collecting.

Like a cultural anthropologist, De Vliegher meticulously documents his varied sources of inspiration in their traditional museum context. The lush colors, dramatic brushstrokes and overpowering scale of his work, however, starkly diverge from the otherwise controlled subject matter. The subsequent rush-infused paintings transcend their representational qualities and assume the commanding presence of contemporary abstractions. In the same way Baselitz’s act of turning his paintings upside down avoided a literal and linear interpretation, De Vliegher ignores the differences within the distinct plate genres—from French Rococo to Qing dynasty—and imbues the work with a palpable essence that is reflective of the artist’s unique, energetic input.

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