The V&A always looks pretty…
A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of Tony driving to work (instead of his usual bike + train combo) so i could go to London without having to take the train. My destination was the V&A to see the Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900 exhibition. I knew nothing about Chinese painting (apart from a Culture Show special I saw on the telly a little while ago), so I didn’t really have any expectations.
I was blown away. For one thing, considering how fragile these things are, some of them are painted on silk, and how old they are. It’s amazing they still survive! And they were beautiful, just beautiful. Gorgeous brush strokes, calligraphy, eerie emptiness and tiny, tiny paintings.
A lot of the work was done in black ink, maybe with one or two colours for contrast, but it felt quite monochrome. Not that that’s a bad thing! Because then, when colours were used, they had so much greater impact. Take this one I took a picture of. It is part of a series as you can maybe see. Apart from the one hanging to the left of it, the rest were mainly black and white, with a very pale green in places. But this painting… the green and blue was startling. So vivid, almost fluorescent. My crappy mobile phone photo does in no way do justice to the depth of this blue colour (lapis lazuli, I’m sure). I kept coming back to look at that piece.
Another piece that was quite extraordinary is called Prosperous Suzhou and it is a long scroll painting which shows the prosperous life in Suzhou. The amazing thing about it is how tiny and detailed it is. Teeny tiny wall decorations that you can only see if you get your nose right next to the glass. Facial expressions that are different one every person. it’s just amazing. I wish they had provided magnifying glasses so you could have a proper good look at it.
Another favourite was a handscroll called Nine Dragons. The brush work on that is just amazing and the way the dragons are depicted, each with their own character, so great.
I highly recommend the Masterpieces of Chinese Painting exhibition. So if you’re near London, don’t miss this! It ends on Sunday, so get your skates on. You may be able to book in advance but I wouldn’t count on it. Instead, go there for when they open and you can buy a ticket then (that’s what I did). Practical tip: make sure you visit the toilet before you go into the exhibit – there’s a lot to see and if it’s busy/crowded it could take a while. I spent over an hour and a half in the exhibition and that’s when it wasn’t busy. Oh and bring a magnifying glass if you’ve got one! ;-)
Afterwards I tried to get a seat in the cafe, but it was just completely packed, so I ended up standing against a wall and eating my packed lunch. So classy… Another practical tip: bring a pack lunch because food in the V&A is hella expensive. A coke and a packet of crisps cost me over £3. :-/
I had a little wander about a small part of the medieval section and I spent quite a bit of time looking at this tapestry. Isn’t it gorgeous? And I love, love all the flowery details in it. Especially the dress on the lady on the left. At first I hadn’t even noticed that there was a pattern on the dress…
Driving through London in the late afternoon. I quite like these photos although they are out of focus… :-)