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Right across East Asia, 山水, or “mountains and water”, is the designation for classical landscape painting. While mountains and water do usually form the constituent elements of works of landscape art, what lies behind these supposedly trivial components? This exhibition offers hints into the aspects that transcend the paintings as representations, exploring the complexity of the layers of meaning that landscape scenes can contain. While works by contemporary artists add additional themes, expanding the scope of the display.

Zhou Tao (* 1976), Nördlich der Berge, China, 2019, Videostill
Zhou Tao (* 1976), Nördlich der Berge, China, 2019, Videostill Courtesy der Künstler und Vitamin Creative Space

 
In her work, the artist Mio Okido (born 1986) explores divergent interpretations of identical scenes or supposedly uniform phenomena. Appropriating the imagery of postcards sent home by her grandfather while stationed in Japanese-occupied China in the early 1940s, she teases out the discrepancies between national and individual narratives, while also highlighting the ways that interpretations evolve throughout history. 

With his video works, Zhou Tao (born 1976) creates images that document the contemporary tensions between human beings and nature, while also evoking the aesthetics of classical landscape painting. The artist uses his camera as a tool for lending expression to the invisible and the unspeakable. His video works give visual form to his perceptions and emotions, while also leaving room for interpretation.
Other works in the collection illustrate shifts in visual motifs, highlight processes of cultural and historical transfer and stress the socially constructed nature of the compositions. To gain a more comprehensive understanding and interpretation of East Asian landscape painting, though, viewers require knowledge of the accompanying inscriptions and the allusions being made in the pictures, something this exhibition provides. 


A temporary presentation by the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin as part of the permanent exhibition Ethnological Collections and Asian Art at the Humboldt Forum.
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