MING TO EARLY QING DYNASTY
dark grey 'Ying' limestone pitted with a craggy surface, hongmu stand
an intaglio inscription in lishu with the characters Yi Yun Cang Shi
together with two ink on paper paintings by Liu Dan (b. 1953) of two views of the rock, mounted and framed, painted in 2004
Special Exhibit on Viewing Scholar's Rocks and Appreciating Famous Paintings, Xiling Yin She (Xiling Seal Engraver's Society), Hangzhou, 2005, p.19.
The present rock is inscribed by Sheng Dashi (1711-1836), zi Zilu, hao Yi Yun. Sheng was a native of Zhengyang (present day Taicang), Jiangsu province. He was a scholar, philosopher, and was a teaching official at the Ministry of Education. A highly knowledgeable erudite, he also excelled in poetry, prose and painting. He is known for his grand, sweeping landscape paintings.
The painting of rocks goes back to as far back as when rocks were first being appreciated for its special aethetic and spiritual qualities through poetry, and essays written in the Tang Dynasty. By the Song Dynasty, rocks were depicted in monumental landscape paintings offering a microcosm of the universe. Paintings of rocks illustrate the intimate relationship between paintings and three-dimensional scuptures. In Ten Views of a Fantastic Rock, a very well known scroll painting by Wu Bin (act. 1583-1626) with calligraphy by Mi Wanzhong (1570 - after 1628), sold in our New York rooms, 6th December 1989, lot 39, it shows a single scholar's rocks depicted from all angles with inscriptions discussing the measurements and appearance of the rock.
In following the long established tradition of painting rocks, the Jiangsongge Studio commissioned two paintings by the contemporary Chinese painter Liu Dan (b. 1953) A connoisseur of scholar's rocks, himself, Liu captures the four principle qualities for admiring rocks: elegance (shou), texture (zhou), channels (lou), and holes (tou). The painting offers viewers the opportunity to meditate upon the artist's interpretation of this great rock.
Unlike traditionalists, Liu often spends days or even months carefully outlining what he is going to paint; his goal is the "objective representation of the subject matter" that somehow gets beyond a 'true' representation of reality to a quintessential, larger-than-life form, isolated on the picture plane. In the "Pinnacle of Leisurely Clouds", Liu enlarges the rock, which measures 60cm, to two magnificent paintings of 166cm, with no loss of resolution. To Liu, the rock respresents the magical abstract patterns of solid void that relate it to contemporary Western sculpture. Liu's superior treatment of the object is elegant, spiritual and constructive. As Ackbar Abbas (Chair of Comparative Literature at Hong Kong University), comments, "The clearer they appear, the more misleading they are,"1 suggesting that there is more than meets the eye to the exquisitely refined work of this highly original contemporary master.
Compare with a similar composition of larger form, of the Old Man Stone, sold in our New York rooms, in the Asian Contemporary Art sale, 31st March, 2006, lot 168.
Liu Dan was born in Jiangsu Province and graduated from the Jiangsu Chinese Painting Institute in 1979. The present paintings were included in the exhibition Selected Objects of Scholarly Admiration, Jeff Hsu's Art, Taipei, 2005. His works were also included in the show Ink Long Scroll (San Diego Art Museum, 1999), and in public collections including Harvard University.
1Ackbar Abbas, "Liu Dan's Art of Deception: Some notes on 12 Views of Little Openwork.
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