Present occasion and history

In the manner of

There are many kinds of ways of referring to other people's art and especially the art of the past. Ways of 'paying homage' include literal copying – which may also serve the simple need of preservation or recording in pre-photographic times – to various ways of painting 'in the manner of' a past model. The reasons for doing this are also necessarily complicated, ranging from forgery (!) to formal fascination to metaphorical reference.

QIAN Weicheng's 錢維城 (1720-1772) small album in imitation of Yuan masters is of a size that could be carried in a gentleman's sleeve. It is much smaller than the Yuan works to which it refers, but this reduction in size serves to make us even more mindful of its status as something that stands for something else. Rather than being a continuity of the genre it refers to, it offers a representation of that sort of thing.

This scale also obliges Qian to work with great abbreviation, his brief, dry strokes recalling types of composition, famous turns. But in undertaking such a cursory performance, the challenge grows, and the core of feeling is made very clear.

This is a more demanding sort of imitation than one that aims only to reproduce a model. It is – like musical performance – a re-creation in the present, breathing life into what was only a shadow from an earlier time. And now this present too has joined the past.



  QIAN Weicheng 錢維城 (1720-1772)
Landscapes in imitation of Yuan masters
Album of 8 leaves, ink on paper
14 x 17.8 cm
Private collection