Currently creating quite a buzz in the Thai art scene, “Up the River During Qingming”, an exhibition of Chinese art and culture currently on show at River City Bangkok (RCB), Asia’s largest center of art and culture exhibitions, marks RCB’s collaboration with the National Palace Museum (Gu Gong), which is home of the world’s largest historical Chinese artifacts. The exhibition brings together a priceless collection of painted scrolls and historical artifacts dating to the Qing Dynasty for an interactive, multimedia presentation for the first time in Southeast Asia. The exhibition runs at River City Bangkok’s second-floor RCB Galleria.
One of the viewers was Assoc Prof Piyasaeng Chantarawongpaisarn, a lecturer in art theory at the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts, Silpakorn University. Piyasaeng specializes in East art history. After viewing the exhibition “Up the River During Qingming”, Ajarn Piyasaeng said that the exhibition is one of the most interesting that Thais should spare time to come and view. The works on display are important artworks of China and worth checking out without the need to visit the National Palace Museum (Gu Gong) in Taiwan. The exhibition offers an immersive art exhibition thanks to the use of multimedia technology.
“We have heard of digital museums to some extent. In the West, multimedia is commonly used in art exhibitions, but not so in Asia. When it comes to Chinese art, there has never been a multimedia exhibition like this one before. With River City Bangkok and the National Palace Museum (Gu Gong) showcasing important artworks, Thai people will benefit from viewing the exhibition. Most importantly, they don’t need to fly to Taiwan,” said Assoc Prof Piyasaeng.
As an expert in art theory, Assoc Prof Piyasaeng explains that Chinese art has distinct qualities that have been developed and evolved under philosophical principles and reflects local folklore and belief systems. During the golden age of Chinese art that straddled the Tang and Song Dynasties, Chinese people were attached to Buddhist and Tao philosophies which permeated paintings at the time. These paintings depicted the natural scenery on a grand scale while humans were portrayed as small components to highlight the greatness of nature. According to Taoism, human beings are a small part of the universe. To create paintings, artists used brushes, ink and paint.
Works on display in “Up the River During Qingming” are renowned, historical artifacts from the Tang, Song, Yuan Ming and Qing Dynasties. The highlight is the painting “Up the River During Qingming” that portrays scenes of prosperity along the banks of the Biàn Hé in Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng),the Northern Song capital. It’s a painted silk scroll that can absorb ink and paint, allowing for the artwork’s durability. The painting features everyday scenes of prosperity in China in the twilight years of the Qing Dynasty including a wedding, an outdoor theatre, a bustling market and a runaway pig.
“The painting “Up the River During Qingming” is the most outstanding artwork of this exhibition and of the National Palace Museum (Gu Gong). I’m beginning to think that this painting is the best work of Chinese art. If you can come to see, you will realize that why it’s such a great artwork. The horizontal painted scroll displays a variety of scenery that unfolds from right to left to present a narrative of its own. The exhibition features an interactive screen that depicts this painting in full view that makes it easy for viewers to understand what’s going on in it. Furthermore, the exhibition showcases magnificent works of Chinese calligraphy that are masterpieces in their own right. Calligraphy is an art form that has existed alongside Chinese painting throughout China’s history. It’s an art form that’s an expression of the power of lines and emotions of the calligrapher in an abstract way. Therefore, viewers don’t need to understand the meaning of the written words of the artist. They can experience the soul of these lines and of the artist. This exhibition displays two great works of Chinese calligraphy, which is a good thing,” says the expert in Asean art history.
Those who have yet to see the exhibition “Up the River During Qingming” might want to heed the advice of Assoc Prof Piyasaeng. This exhibition is ideal to people of all ages, especially those from the art world and the new generation. It’s one of the exhibitions that all Thais should come to see at least once.
“Firstly, this exhibition is something new for Thais. High school and university students should come to see it. Secondly, this exhibition is the first in Thailand that uses multimedia to create a digital museum that would be familiar to the new generation as they are used to playing digital games. But in this exhibition, they will find the familiar sights in their everyday life that are presented as art, and it’s about classic art and great masterpieces. So, I hope that the new generation will come to see this exhibition and get a better understanding of beauty that’s part of Chinese philosophy. They will be able to see Chinese art up close. Most importantly, the exhibition offers an interactive art experience that is fun and exciting. I would say that this exhibition is suitable to every age group, but youngsters rather than adults will have more fun viewing the exhibition. If you want to see the real paintings at the National Palace Museum (Gu Gong), you won’t be able see the paintings up close. At NPM, there are no captions in Thai aside from the Chinese and English captions. In this exhibition, it feels like the National Palace Museum has been moved to River City Bangkok. The exhibition is presented in a way that makes it easy to understand. If you miss this exhibition, you’ll have to fly to Taiwan. So, I would say if you don’t come to see, you’ll be sorry,” says Assoc Prof Piyasaeng.
The exhibition “Up the River During Qingming” is on view at River City Bangkok’s second-floor RCB Galleria. Tickets at Bt350 (for adults) are available from www.thaiticketmajors.com . Children, students and family groups are subject to special ticket prices. For more information, call (+66) 2 237 0077-8 or visit www.rivercitybangkok.com .