Bowdoin College Museum of Art
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Ink Tales
February 3, 2009 - May 10, 2009
Focus Gallery
"Album of Six Cranes in Landscapes" (detail) by Lu Zhi, Chinese, 1496-1576, Ink and colors on silk, Gift of William Bingham II from the Peterson Collection, 1942.35

Ink Tales is a collaborative, student-curated exhibition of Chinese paintings drawn from the collections of Bowdoin and Colby Colleges.

"Ink Tales" refers to two related aspects of Chinese painting: its distinctive materials and its rich narrative content. In the Chinese tradition, painters use a flexible brush to apply ink and colors to silk or paper, transforming inert substances into revealing images. The paintings in this exhibition are eclectic and offer an opportunity to explore a common theme: narrative.

Many narratives are lodged in the paintings’ subject matter. However, another way of understanding the narrative dimensions of Chinese painting is to consider the social contexts of creating and consuming the artwork. Images of auspicious plants and animals, for instance, would have been appropriate gifts for occasions such as weddings and birthdays. In some cases, the story of the scroll's creation, preservation, loss and rediscovery is just as fascinating as the narrative content of the subject.

The varied formats of Chinese painting also help determine how the viewer perceives the scroll's narrative. While large hanging scrolls may be viewed all at once, albums and handscrolls insist on a more extended episodic experience, like reading a book. Traditionally, handscrolls are unrolled to reveal a series of partial views, while albums are turned page by page.

Under the joint direction of De-nin D. Lee, Assistant Professor of Art and Asian Studies at Bowdoin College, and Ankeney Weitz, Associate Professor of Art and East Asian Studies at Colby College, this exhibition shares the students' explorations of the variety of stories associated with the images, formats, and functions of Chinese painting.

Ink Tales, installed in the Focus Gallery
"Portrait of a Chinese Nobleman", 19th century, paint on paper, Bequest of Charles Potter Kling, 1935.903

"Su Wu Herding Sheep" by Wu Yongxiang, Chinese, 1913-1970, Ink and colors on paper, Gift of the Honorable Karl Lott Rankin, Honorary Degree, 1960, and Pauline Jordan Rankin, 1971.50