Week 7 Response – ACM Visit

What was your favorite object that you saw during our visit?

Pair of Mounted Blue Jars

Material(s): Porcelain and Gilded Bronze mounts

Origin(s): China (porcelain made around 1736 – 45) and France (mounts made around 1745 – 49)

Out of all the ceramics and porcelain wares found in the Trade Gallery in ACM, this pair of jars caught my attention. They commanded my attention due to its large size and highly embellished nature, emanating an aureate element to the jars. Although the jars were mainly made of porcelain, the intricately casted bronze mounts were gilded and attached, to accentuate the jars by complementing the vivid deep blue glaze. 

The jars fuses exemplary skills of the Asian and European components together. The vivid glaze was perfected in the Qianlong 乾隆 reign while the bronze mounts were casted as dragons and produced in Paris during the reign of Louis XV. Perhaps, due to the time period which was during the Rocaille era, this French style for ornamental aesthetics demanded for such exuberance. The Rocaille style was highly influenced by Chinoiserie and the incorporation of Chinese figures. Hence, even if the dragons’ appearances hails from European mythology with its lizard-like depiction with bat-like wings; The use of them seems more Chinese in nature as dragons were highly auspicious creature and used to represent imperial power in Chinese culture. This could reveal the deep appreciation for fine Chinese porcelain and culture in the European courts.

Other than the fusion of cultures that makes this jar so interesting, there is a subtle piece of art hidden within its deep blue glaze. At first it looks like cracks within the glaze but at certain angles of light, it reveals a traditional Chinese landscape painting of trees and mountains etc. It was so intriguing to look at and decipher what these “cracks” actually were and the subtlety of it makes this work of art even more endearing to look at.   


Week 5 Response – Engaging with the Past












Who are some other contemporary artists who use traditional materials, genres, or subject matter from the past? Why are they engaging with the premodern?

Matthew Simmonds has a Bachelor of Art History specialising in art and architecture of the medieval period and is trained as an architectural stone carver. He previously worked on the restoration of several major British national monuments, including Westminster Abbey and the cathedrals of Salisbury and Ely. Later, he developed his own classical ornamental carving style in marble in Pietrasanta, Italy, 

The thought of using marble or stone as a medium would immediately be directed to the Greek marble sculptors from the past. However, Simmonds specialty in marble updates this traditional medium and technique. Moreover, from his past work of restoring cathedrals, his work is mainly inspired by sacred buildings such as baroque basilicas and Ancient Roman temples. These scenes engages with the premodern works of art by adhering and capturing the specific art styles and medium of their time. Thus, by using traditional themes of the past, we understand what sacred buildings are about and what gives significance to a space. Moreover, his work features architecture on a small scale which reminds me of the Mughal miniatures as it depicts artistry and creativity on an intricate level yet in small area of space too. Due to his past work of restoration, his work is mainly inspired by sacred buildings such as baroque basilicas and Ancient Roman temples. 

Simmonds’ principle is to highlight how “Nature overpowers architecture, as if it encases or envelops it”. The beautifully carved interiors alludes to buildings as fossils, carved and trapped inside the rock, therefore, humbling the architecture we once revered as without nature, we would not have such works of art today. By enveloping these scenes with nature through the stone, it creates some sort of balance within nature and the man-made. 

Week 3 Response – Thoughts on Explorer

Apart from Zheng He and the Arab navigator in Malindi, who else is missing from these Eurocentric narratives?

The Spice Route is also known as the Maritime Silk Road which Vasco Da Gama was credited as being the first European to reach India by sea. Another explorer missing from this Eurocentric narratives are Jorge Álvares and Ferdinand Magellan. Both were Portuguese explorers and the first europeans to reach other parts of Asia by sea during the Age of Discovery.

Jorge Álvares was the first European to land in China near the historic city of Guangzhou in 1513. This connection allowed Portugal to establish trade relations with the Chinese when Afonso de Albuquerque, the Viceroy of the Estado da Índia sent his cousin over.

Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean and to reach the Marianas and then the island of Homonhon in the Philippines in 1521. His expedition was the first to reach the Philippine Archipelago where the native tribes were friendly to them. Magellan later baptised Rajah Humabon of Cebu and his queen which symbolises the Christianisation of the Philippines.


Week 2 Response – Thoughts on Benin Bronzes

George the Poet’s video about Benin Bronzes praises the greatness of the Benin empire that depicted a sophisticated, modern society during their times with organisation marvelling the Europeans. Unlike most societies, the Benin society was welcoming to foreigners and their trade. However, he also mentions how the Europeans took advantage of Benin’s generosity nature to use their people as slaves. This angered me as not only is it dehumanising but these Empires are where they are today because of them. Furthermore, the Benin bronzes plays a vital role in Nigeria’s culture and history yet the bronzes are not returned to them but could be loaned to them by the British Museum, which houses the largest collection of Benin bronzes. This, I find really insulting as it is stolen art and the Nigerians are not able to keep it or proudly show their heritage because they do not have many. In addition, it is exploitative as tourists from all around flock to the British Museum and are charged per entry, so in a way to me, it is a reminder of their colonisation whereby Britain is still profiting from Nigeria.

The argument is that Nigeria might not have the proper technology to maintain the bronzes, however, how would they ever develop the proper technology if museums refuse to return/lend them their bronzes? Also the tourism industry might be boosted if the bronzes are returned which can create revenue for the country to develop better technology for their own museums. 700 bronzes and 580 bronzes are housed in the British Museum and Ethnological Museum of Berlin respectively and in my opinion, returning at least half of their bronzes to Nigeria can’t harm their museum’s tourist intake and it gives time for Nigeria to develop the proper facilities to manage their own bronzes in the future. 

Week 1 response

Art History in the past was biased to the western world and in turn, audience perceived that the west influenced the east on art and culture. However, the narrow perception of art history has changed to become more nuance and inclusive with the understanding that cultures influenced each other.