|Painting seen at the|
Zhejiang West Lake gallery
As a prelude to our departure the following week, I sorted out the gifts and souvenirs I'd bought so far. There were still a few more purchases to make, but most of the goods in the nearby MixC Mall were too expensive. I looked around a silk goods store on the top floor selling items for 5-figure prices. One was a silk scroll reproduction of what some call "The Mona Lisa Of China" (meaning the nation's most famous work of art): a 12th century scene in a picturesque landscape crowded with people, animals and boats, known as Along the River during the Qingming Festival (Qīngmíng Shànghé Tú). Cheaper reproductions can be found as well. When we got to London I gave my grandson Alexander a fan printed with this picture; he liked the little details that showed up as we unfolded it segment by segment.
Chinese painting would be a fascinating subject to study. Hampered by my inability to read the script, I didn't take in as much art in Hangzhou as I'd have liked to. The main branch of the National Academy of Fine Arts in China is on the Nanshan Lu, and has a gallery next door which I'd visited on May 25th (I didn't mention it in that day's blogpost) but I hadn't understood the exhibition notes. I'd seen a gallery full of photos of faces and landscapes, possibly by the same photographer, including one that I can still visualise vividly: a beautiful young girl breastfeeding her baby. I gave it my own title: the Madonna of Tibet. In adjoining galleries were oil paintings and sketches in a non-controversial style, including some inferior copies of famous European masterpieces. The other art museum I saw in Hangzhou was the one on Gushan at the northern end of the lake. That too was full of very derivative art, their 10th century ink and wash landscapes really no different from their recent, 21st century ones, but originality may not be seen as a virtue in the Chinese art world. I don't think "derivative" has such negative connotations to the Chinese as it does to us, a copy being more of a deferential tribute to the old masters than a cop-out. At least, that's how it seems to me.
I must say that the most beautiful works of art I saw in Hangzhou were the gardens and courtyards.
On the basement level of the MixC mall the Pizza Hut sold me a nice risotto and after that, sitting on a bench in the CBD sculpture garden during a slow walk back to the hotel, I finished reading David Lodge's novel Deaf Sentence (which I'd bought in the bookshop at the mall a week or so before): good read, depressing subject.
In the sculpture garden
Then I rode up to the 18th floor and had another swim in the hotel pool (click! ––the hotel's website has been updated, so you can now find a picture of the pool online). I didn't venture into the "Touch Spa" because it sounded somewhat dubious:
We open the gateway to commune with heaven-sent elements and experience truly rewarding ancient rituals and wisdom to enhance the body-mind-soul interdependence.Instead, I enjoyed a couple of Skype chats with my children, catching a glimpse of George observing pulsar signals at the radio telescope at Parkes in Australia and Emma feeding her baby in London, England. The Internet is a truly wonderful thing; to restrict people's access to it seems all wrong.