11 August 2015

Drawing Tuesday - China gallery, British Museum

A busy place, the Chinese gallery! We tucked ourselves into corners and let the hubbub wash over us.

My niche displayed objects from the Eastern Zhou and Western Zhou, which took over from the Shang dynasty in 1050 BC. It was in the Shang that bronze casting flourished and some amazing vessels were made (Jessica Rawson's book on the subject has been on my shelves since 1992). Later the motifs changed, from the tao tie "monsters" to plumed birds and dragons. 
A tao tie monster, part of a harness (3000 years old)

... another on a vessel
There were decorative motifs galore  - 
More serpents, cunningly intertwined

Are they dragons? are they birds?
The interlacing makes logical sense, but getting it down on paper  was a bit of a problem for me.

After a page of patterns, wobbly ones at that, I moved on to vessel shapes - many are represented in the British Museum's collection of "ritual vessels". 

It often took a lot of looking to make out the patterning - though these coiled dragons were quite clear -
And behind the main patterns are a web of fine lines that were inscribed into the mold. Rather like the all-over patterns in Celtic art.

My plan to go back to the museum during the week and photograph the objects that the others had been drawing came to naught. You will have to take the drawings at face value.

Porcelain lions by Nathalia, and also some little objects she has at home -
2nd century pots and some large (mysterious) stone bars from Malaysia, made 2500-1500BC, drawn by Jo -
Having nipped along to the Indian gallery, Jo also captured "The Departure of Prince Siddhartha", his horse borne aloft by robed figures. This was mounted as part of a shrine at the entrance of a ruby-digging in Mogok, Burma, and was given reverence every time a miner was lowered by basket into the pit many metres deep -
Sue's porcelain ewer, phoenix-headed - " among the most remarkable of all Chinese ceramics; no closely comparable pieces have ever been excavated" -
Among Sue's other drawings, we were intrigued by the bundle of coins, which were part of a sword used for exorcism -

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