New English Calligraphy – China in the V&A

February 25, 2014

All good things must come to an end, and for the exhibition Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900 that was the case on Sunday 19th Jan 2014. But, you still have until this Sunday, the opportunity to visit the John Madejski Garden at the V&A to enjoy Travelling to the Wonderland, an installation by the artist Xu Bing.

John Madejski Garden installation 'Travelling to the Wonderland' by Xu Bing 2013 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A much more enchanting ‘Wonderland’ than most of the tat similarly named that pops up here and there around Christmas time and New Year. But for me, every bit as interesting are the sketches, ceramics and calligraphy Xu Bing prepared as he developed his ideas for the installation, and which are currently on display in Room 44: The T T Tsui China gallery

In particular, I liked the ‘New English Calligraphy’ on a panel almost three meters square with English words transformed into Chinese type pictograms to tell the story of the fable on which ‘the Journey’ is based. 

The result is elegant, with broad brush strokes confidently applied, enigmatic, and willing the viewer to interpret what is at the same time familiar and unusual. Very conveniently there is a bench nearby allowing you to sit and attempt to solve the conundrum comfortably. I managed a few words, but sat in awe of my neighbour as he read the text fluently – up and down and left to right.

Have a go on your next visit. You have until this Sunday 2nd March 2014 to visit both the Garden and the China gallery.

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