Category Archives: Art in the Age of Colonialism

Chinoiserie in the Bedroom – Objects and Wall Texts

Fiona – China/Porcelain


China, Saucer, c.1770-96, enamelled porcelain

18th century women in Britain, were all for porcelains wares and the demand of such goods certainly pushed the market as well as meaning of these objects, without a doubt relating to the feminine, in both fragile beauty and perhaps, being a useless display, similar to the position of the female in a patriarchal society.

The grandiose yet excessive style of chinoiserie also then, reflected the wants and needs of the consumers or housewives then, which took little heed to classic styles and merely grabbing onto certain motifs, such as the willow pattern which was inspired by chinaware imports in the early 1800s.

Interestingly, the plate itself, bridges the very idea of women as porcelain, the very thing which they indulged in, reflects back upon themselves. William Wycherley’s 1675 play The Country Wife had his character, Mr Horner making love to Lady Fidget under the guise of showing her “his china collection.” The notion of self-gratifying need for both erotic and exotic sums the conception of hoarding collections of chinoserie along with it’s sexual allusion, where consumerism and excessive desire ran rampant.

Here, a pretty saucer, adorned with the willow pattern in gold that encases a milk maid, in colour, gathering the hem of her dress as she steps over a stile. The scenery is remnant landscapes in china ware, but the European figure, exemplifies its intended audience.  The imagery is suggestive enough, allowing a view of the maiden’s underskirt but there is more. Viewers are in for a treat as they flip over the plate for a full view of the maiden’s bare buttocks. The subject matter is voyeuristic in nature and curious, clearly allowing the male gaze and in light humor of the hidden “behind” that lies in the back of our minds.

Such objects were likely passed around among intimate group of friends or even lovers and contributed to the associations of chinoiserie with erotic fantasy, humour and promiscuity.


Sloboda, S. (2014) Chinoiserie : commerce and critical ornament in eighteenth-century Britain Manchester, New Hampshire: Manchester University Press


Yu Wei – Wallpapers


Refer to:  link

Peng Cheng – Mirrors

18th century Chinese mirror painting at Saltram, Devon

18th century Chinese mirror painting at Saltram, Devon

In the 18th Century, Chinoiserie became a design agency that appealed to the females. As Chinoiserie was made by professionals and yet it was affordable for any upper middle class, women who have some spending capacities are able to purchase them. Not only were the designs of chinoiserie was perceived as exotic and fresh, the fantasy of a heavenly land of birds, trees(mostly willows) and mountains was the main topics of most Chinoiserie designs.

As the Jesuits are forced to leave China by the end of the 17th century, the objects of the commerce are visual representations of China with impenetrable and seductive allure. The objects in the Chinese taste were prized for their abilities to reflect light, this could seen in porcelain, silverware and glossy textiles. Especially due to the import of English Glass, mirror paintings were made in Canton and was very popular at that time.

However, these mirrors were never considered to be distinguishable pieces of art. There are several arguments to this claim. One of the arguments is that Chinoiserie was seen as a lack of depth, thus this characterization was a response to its social experience. This might be due to the style of the paintings are normally two dimensions. And mirror paintings require the reflections, the visual interest in only on the surface. Furthermore, feminizations of Chinoiserie was linked to the concepts of surface beauty.

Another argument by David Porter, the Chinese Tastes in the 18th century, was that Chinoiserie has no cultural and oriental iconography for the people using them. The people who owns these objects have no cultural, historical, religious meanings for them. Furthermore, this lack of communication worse when amateurs crafters mimicking a design for its monetary value. As chinoiserie was just used as an aesthetic agency, or alternate model for designers, it was provided for all people from the poor to the rich. There was no idea of status behind the object.


The mirror shown in the reference of the Mirror paintings shows both arguments perfectly thus it was just considered an exotic commodity at that time. However, the idea of the mirror painting is very interesting. Since the craftsman is painting a picture on an object that is literally “to paint oneself”, the mirror shows the person in the reflection embedded in the picture on it. The painting frames the user as she fashions her own image out of paint and her own existence. Thus, it provides a performative, self-reflective image of the woman as as she is physically and metaphorically “making herself up”.

Azmeera – textiles/fabric/clothes

Chinorserie- clothes 1

Refer: Link


Daphne – Lacquer

Week 3: Female Patrons of the Arts

Unlike Catherine of Austria, Modern Arts take a very different turn. In the past, arts are commissioned, preserved over the year even as daily objects. However, in today’s Art has become another investment for some of the richest people in the world.

And when we are talking about women as art collectors, it is undoubtedly that they are the daughters and wives of rich people (and that has been unchanged throughout history). The famous art collector I have researched on is Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. Sheikha Al-Mayassa is the sister of Qatar’s Emir and chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority. Since she is a part of the royal family of Qatar, she has enough money and power to both collect and influence the art scene.

In 2012, Sheikha Al-Mayassa gave a talk about the social impacts of the arts and the idea of spreading a global culture through the arts. Not only did it not raise awareness of the arts, she also explained that art is a very important part of one’s national identity.

Sheikha Al-Mayassa has one of the most expensive art collections in the world making her the 2nd most renowned female art collector in the world. She set aside 1 billion dollars annually for the art scene in Qatar.

Sheikha Al Mayassa is said to have purchased the most expensive painting in the world, Paul “Gaugin’s When Will You Marry?” in 2015 (below) for $300 million. She also bought Cezanne’s “The Card Players in 2012” for $250 million, as well as Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) in 2007 for $70 million, a Damien Hirst pill cabinet for $20 million and works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon. She has staged major exhibitions in Qatar with Takashi Murakami, Richard Serra and Damien Hirst (underwriting his exhibit first at the Tate Modern prior to opening in Doha).


The Sheikha oversees a vast array of museums including the I. M. Pei designed Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. A Jean Nouvel designed National Museum of Qatar and an Orientalist Museum by Herzog & de Meuron are slated to open in the coming years.

The arts has always been an investment for the rich and has always been circulating in their circle since it is impossible for the average population to collect famous works of art. However, in the capitalist world today, the value of art has changed due to their monetary value instead of just judging them by their cultural value. However, it is up to the 1% of the world to decide if art can become a social commodity.

Journal Week 2: Africa

It is difficult for me to imagine a peaceful Africa in the past where the people living in that continent was fed, taken care of and has the luxury to produce art. My impression of African has always been that it is a place of war. Blood diamond, a film in 2006, portrays a more accurate Africa instead of the stereotypical “Hakuna Matata”.

I remember back in 2011, I understood what really is happening in Africa: Congo’s corrupted governments, Somalia privacy issues, Earthquake in Haiti, etc. The countries of Africa are unable to provide their people with proper amenities for their daily lives; in my point of view, it doesn’t seem to be a place where art could be preserved and born (art has always been a luxury).

Salt Celler

The ivories of Africa makes me feel that maybe in the past there was a time of peace in Africa, where people do not need to fight for the land and resources. The ivories tell so much stories about their culture and also the amazing ecosystem that has been there. The saltcellar shows the respect for foreigners that came and they are a harmonious group of people that allows their culture to be influenced. It makes me always sad that in the past, Nigeria might be a place where people have been welcoming. Today, Nigeria is suffering from major social unrest, food and water shortages. And with more pressing issues at hand, there is no way Nigeria is producing art of the similar quality again.

Sometimes, I wonder if the travelers to Africa broke the culture, divided their lands, enslaved them and destroyed the peace. The current Africa, is not as beautiful.

Lesson 1: What is art?

Lecture 1

Q1. What is art to you?

Art is a symbol of expression of the artist that can be kept through a physical medium especially when talking about art before the 2000s. However, with the development of modern art, art can be able to bring about different experience and reactions from the intended audience. Personally, I feel that art is subjective, it had been too loosely used by many to descript weird and unusual occurrences. However, that does not put one’s work as art. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, art is only considered art in the eyes of whoever who can value it and also be able to educate others around him or her about the value of the art piece.

In today’s, the value of art had been tainted by the people who has made art into monetary industry. I feel that the monetary value of an art piece have been influencing people in the wrong way to believe that art has a trend or to be directed in a certain way.


Q2. Does colonialism exist today? If it is, in what form?

Colonialism has evolved ever since the 2000s into a new form now labelled as neo-colonialism. This new practice is through the manipulation of developing countries using methods of capitalism and cultural imperialism. Developing countries such as African nations are one of the major targets of neo-colonialism in this current time and age.

The reason how neo-colonialism is still prevalent currently is due to the dependency of the developing nations on the first world countries. The whole system of neo-colonialism is built with the model of wealthy countries at the centre and poorer countries at the periphery. Furthermore, with easy transportation and fast paced information transferring, multinational corporations are able to enter newer markets much more easily. These companies is able to influence the developing nations through humanitarian, environmental and ecological causes. However, not all influences on the developing countries are positive as these multinational companies may exploit works or ignore environmental regulations.

One of the earliest example of neo-colonialism happened in the cold war where the USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republic) and the USA (United States of America) fought a proxy war fought by client states in the decolonised countries as they are accused of practising neo-colonialism in their imperial and hegemonic pursuits.

Current day representations of colonialism are Sino-African relations where trade between china and African nations have increased by 600% during the past 15 years. China not only control the trade in some African nations by having 70% the latter total exports. Korea, on the other hands had be acquiring lands from Madagascar for agriculture lands by outsourcing their multinational corporations there.

Thus, there is distinctive presences of colonialism today through the economic flow of wealthier countries to their poorer counterparts.