Grace and resilience

Loss - acceptance and preservation

A typical story in accounts of Chinese (or Japanese) literati taste is of a servant who over-polishes a precious old object. The result of this it that it looks new, having lost its patina and much of its flavour.

Acceptance of aging, marvelling at the gradual ebbing of resistance – these are ideas visualized in the damaged and discoloured surfaces of old furniture and stones. Such reflections can be idle nostalgia, but they may also lead to profound awareness of time and duration.

Age is vividly shown in hardwoods with relatively light colouring and prominent grain.

Above, the leg and frame of a daybed have been affected by long periods of dry weather, so that the grain resembles a puckered raisin. As the carving followed the grain of the wood, the patterns evolve in tandem. The rattan top has been regularly renewed, thus emphasizing how the remaining wood has been treasured.

Below, the huanghuali (黄花梨) wood of a chair's armrest shows the vicissitude of five centuries of use. Like a palimpsest, history lurks in the wounds and shadows that mark the surface.

Shaanxi, Ming period (1368-1644)
Collection CHANG Tsong-zung
 Detail of chair
Ming period (1368-1644)
Private collection