Friday, September 14, 2007

Thoughts from Shanghai

I had a chance recently to visit Shanghai, and spent a quick hour in the Shanghai art museum. I looked at ancient Chinese scrolls, stamps, and jade carvings.

A couple of things surprised me: the scrolls were often covered in lots of red stamps. Apparently collectors and dealers would add their stamps to a scroll as it passed through their hands. The stamps served as a record of the provenance of the scroll, and stamps from prominent collectors would add value.

Sometimes, artists would leave blank areas at the ends of scrolls where viewers could leave their stamps and even comments.

It surprised me because I would never think of adding my marks to another artist's work. But I like the idea. I like the idea of leaving blank areas where viewers can add their thoughts. Maybe a portion of the canvas. A separate canvas wouldn't quite work -- it could get separated from the original.

As for paintings, artists would sometimes write directly on face of the painting explaining their inspiration. Sometimes it would be a bit of poetry or a story. But the words (characters) added a visual interest to the painting while also helping out the viewer.

Me and my love of words finds that fascinating.

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