KIA Opens Flowers in Chinese Art

Posted: June 29, 2015
Source: Katie Houston
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New Exhibition: Flowers in Chinese Art

KALAMAZOO, MI - Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has opened Flowers in Chinese Art, featuring 35 Chinese paintings and ceramics representing the beauty and symbolism of nature. The exhibition fills the Joy Light Gallery of Asian Art, on the lower level of the KIA, a space that was made possible by local collectors Joy and Timothy Light, who also loaned works to augment those from the KIA collection.

Flowers are revered in traditional Chinese culture. A floral motif is a way by which a mood, a season, a sentiment, or a desire is conveyed. Flowers in Chinese art symbolize everything from celebration days, specific months and seasons to virtuous characteristics, and even death.

"Flowers are not always depicted realistically, or in their natural setting, as artists seek to communicate a particular message through symbolism and allegory," says Katherine Ransbottom, KIA Curatorial Assistant and curator of this exhibition.

Floral motifs were not prevalent in the art of Chinese antiquity, but came with the expansion of Buddhism into China via the Silk Road in the first and second century CE. By the time of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), floral motifs were quite common. As with many things favored by royalty and the ruling class, the trends and styles quickly spread among the people, and flower motifs became more and more popular throughout the dynasties that followed.

"The range of painting styles displayed is remarkable, from delicate rosebuds to expressive morning glories, sometimes paired with nimble grasshoppers, timid songbirds, or an imperious duck," Ransbottom adds.

The exhibition was supported in part by the Joy Light East Asian Acquisitions and Exhibitions Fund. It runs through December 9, 2016.