Present occasion and history

Scrolls - communities across time

One the most arresting qualities of literati practice is collaboration and progressive interpretations. Over several generations, a single artwork may be literally transformed by the addition of elements made by several artists (or critics/ interpreters) acting in response to one another.

The paradigm of this is a handscroll. With a painting at its core, it is enriched by commentary, suitable poetry, renovation of mountings, a new silk cover and title slip... This is a means for artistic critique and engaged collecting, a channel for validation and transformation, and for both reasserting values and devising new approaches to relevance.

In the winter landscape of WEN Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559) layerings of time have been knitted together. Some of these are simple adornments, such as jade finials, handsome silk mounting, and an external wrapping of brocade –itself likely to have been antique when it was added in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Opening the scroll in its current form (one necessarily hesitates to say 'final'), one meets a modern frontispiece by ZHANG Daqian 張大千 (1899-1983) announcing the painting. Inscribing with calligraphy that gives a nod to an ancient script, Zhang suggests that the work has now passed into the category of things that represent the rare achievements of any time. (Continued on next page.)



  Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559)
Mount Guan Snowscape (dated 1532) (details)
Handscroll, ink and colour on silk
21 x 418 cm
Private collection

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