Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
XU LEI (B. 1963)
XU LEI (B. 1963)

Inkstone “Yan Shan”

Details
XU LEI (B. 1963)
Inkstone “Yan Shan”
Scroll, mounted and framed
Ink and colour on silk
160.5 x 98.5 cm. (63 1/8 x 38 ¾ in.)
Executed in 2014

One of the most celebrated scholar’s rocks in history, Yan Shan originally belonged to Southern Tang Emperor Li Yu as suggested by historical accounts. Li excelled in painting and poetry, and was also passionate about scholar’s rocks. As his dynasty fell, Yan Shan eventually came into the hands of the renowned Song poet Mi Fu, who allegedly rendered the first pictorial record of the rock on a handscroll named Yan Shan Ming. Since then, it has fascinated rock collectors from Song Emperor Huizong, Qing Emperor Qianlong to contemporary connoisseurs. Although the location of Yan Shan remains unknown, it has often been written about and painted based on Mi Fu’s rendition of the rock, which Xu Lei’s Yan Shan directly references and provides a contemporary interpretation.

Yan Shan belongs to the Sea and Sky series that Xu Lei began in 2012. Moving away from his previous practice of portraying dim and enclosed spaces, Xu depicts outdoor scenes of nature with a strong sense of openness and optimism. The upper part of Yan Shan resembles the scholar’s rock in Mi Fu’s painting, while the bottom is a giant Taihu rock painted in the fine brush (gongbi) style. The two parts are seemingly connected, only divided by a line that suggests the sea level. From the composition Xu implies that the Taihu rock is the lower extension of Yan Shan, submerged in water, never exposed to viewers. A master manipulator of the seen and the unseen, Xu Lei invites the contemporary viewer to participate in this visual conundrum – to imagine a part of Yan Shan that is hidden and not illustrated. Xu Lei’s Yan Shan is a metaphor of firstly, how truth is often hidden, signified by the Taihu rock buried beneath the water, and secondly, how the truth that we are presented with is often only a perceived reality – like the Yan Shan portrayed by Mi Fu. After all, there is no way of knowing what Yan Shan looks like; the existing evidence can only be supplemented by our imagination. The unsolvable mystery continues to provoke and inspire throughout history, and is the reason why Xu Lei finds classical Chinese painting as intriguing as ever.

Brought to you by

Ben Kong
Ben Kong

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

Condition report

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report
;

More from Chinese Contemporary Ink

View All
View All