Unframing and reframing shanshui




Liu, Yang

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This dissertation explores the philosophical and aesthetic continuities and changes of the shanshui genre and the ongoing relevance of Chinese philosophy, in particular Daoism, within a subfield of modern and contemporary Chinese art. This dissertation has been created in dialogue with these traditions. Reflections on how this research has impacted my own art practise is intertwined with the historical and analytical discussion. This multi-threaded, multi-disciplinary dissertation has been written as a form of dialectical discourse which employs both analytical and personal writing. As such it combines elements of visual art-making as both artistic expression and research process; art historical research and analysis; and, ongoing self-reflections around both practices. In addition to the analysis of the art of a selection of contemporary Chinese artists, my art-based research led to the creation and discussion of a series of artworks, including the core painting series and exhibition titled, For a Moment, Silence in 2016. My research led me to the conclusion that shanshui is much more than a traditional visual form in Chinese art history for it offers a unique modality of thinking, perceiving and engaging. This, in turn, is based on a fundamental and dynamic perception of the interrelatedness of all things in the world, a perception which is embedded in a classical Chinese worldview. I demonstrate from various angles that by connecting the personal with the art historical, as well as with a philosophical and a pragmatic understanding of traditional Chinese philosophy, the experience of shanshui can be internalized through contemporary art practice as a method of reflective and experiential learning.



shanshui, Chinese Art History, daoism, art-as-research methodology, fengjing, landscape