Having completed a Significance Assessment of the Golden Dragon Museum’s collection, it has been wonderful to have the opportunity to work as a Research Curator on this joint exhibition between the Bendigo Art Gallery and the Golden Dragon Museum,
‘Treasures of Dai Gum San: Chinese artistry from the Golden Dragon Museum’.
I really enjoyed exploring in detail the skills and techniques that have gone into making items from within the Golden Dragon Museum’s collection. One of my favourite discoveries was
this video that details how the magnificent headdresses ((戲曲盔頭 ) that feature in Cantonese and Beijing opera are made.
This exhibition opened at the Bendigo Art Gallery on 20 August 2022 and runs until 19 February 2023. It has been such a pleasure working with Clare Needham (Bendigo Art Gallery), Megan Hall (Golden Dragon Museum) and Leigh McKinnon (Golden Dragon Museum) and of course the rest of the team at the Bendigo Art Gallery and the Golden Dragon Museum on this project.
Media: ABC Central Victoria, ‘Intricate Chinese artefacts have travelled down the road to Bendigo Art Gallery’,
https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/vic-statewide-mornings/chinese-art/101371614, 25 Aug 2022 and https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-08-27/treasures-of-dai-gum-san-bendigo-art-gallery/101357340, 27 Aug 2022..
Every time I examined the items in this exhibition I saw new things. The Chinese knotwork on the trim of this waistcoat is exquisite.
Detailed ornament on the top of a banner fan – handmade with card pieces, glue, paint, gilding with the pompoms made of fine silk filaments. The fingers that made this ornament were certainly dextrous.
This decoration on this decoration refers to the story of how a Chinese ‘unicorn’ (麒麟 kei leun) presented a jade book (玉書 yuk syu) to Confucius’ mother foretelling the child’s significance. Kei leun were also supposed to have done this prior to the birth of Chinese emperors. The gold couching and colours on this jacket under full light when we were setting up really took the breath away. To help keep the textiles in pristine condition the lighting is of course dimmed for the exhibition. They still look amazing!
This exhibition is all about looking more closely (in this case at a three crane urn) and spending time appreciating the pieces in the exhibition.
By zooming in on the large three crane urn you can immerse yourself in the detail of the decoration. Even the legs are decorated small birds and mythical creatures.
We were so delighted that the technicians at Bendigo Art Gallery were able to safely illuminate this cloisonné lantern.
There is so much beautiful artistry to be seen viewing objects close up – knotwork, tassels, embroidery.
Looking even closer is just as extraordinary. This is a very close up view of the banner corner shown in close up in the previous image. You can see the gold couching technique at the top, the ribbon trim and then below you can see how gilded paper strips are finely stitched to create the edging.
In writing labels for the exhibition I was delighted to discover a couple of pine rats (squirrels) scampering on the branches of a small potted pine. They are both symbols of longevity and this is emphasised by the bunch of grapes and peach nearby which also symbolise longevity. Grape being a pun of peach.
When selecting shoes for the exhibition one of the things we discovered was that while many of them at first glance looked to be all the same there were in fact subtle difference between them. Some of the finest embroidery in the exhibition is found on these shoes.
I love a bit of Chinese word play. The character for bat, 蝠 fuk, is a homonym for the character 福 fuk, meaning ‘blessing’. This bat is flying upside-down – ‘inverted’ – (倒 dou) which is a pun of ‘arrive’ (到 dou). Together this means ‘blessings have arrived’ or ‘blessings descending from heaven’ (福從天降 fuk chung tin gong).
The gold couching on the processional textiles in the exhibition is stunning. This star shaped pattern on the gaiters on display is one of my favourite examples.
Fan banner (detail), QIng dynasty late 19th century kingfisher feathers silk, paper wood, hand-cut mirrors. Bendigo Chinese Association Collection, Golden Dragon Museum