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Art

#art history#capitalism#China#flowers#Gordon Cheung#painting#still life

Bursting Blooms Link Modernity and History in Gordon Cheung’s Decadent Still-Life Paintings

May 23, 2023

Kate Mothes

“Gardens of Perfect Brightness” (2022), Financial Times newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on linen, 200 x 150 x 3 centimeters. All images © Gordon Cheung, shared with permission

In 1634, during the Dutch Golden Age, an unprecedented financial phenomenon began in the form of skyrocketing prices for rare and fashionable tulip bulbs. By 1637, the speculative bubble collapsed, and while the plummeting price of tulips may have bankrupted a few investors, it didn’t take a steep toll on the overall economy, unlike the U.S. housing bubble that spurred a global crisis and led to severe recession in 2008.

“Tulip mania” is a term still used today to describe when the prices of assets—such as mortgages or technology—rise exponentially from their intrinsic or general market values and present a threat to economic stability. For London-based artist Gordon Cheung, Dutch still-life paintings provide a lens through which to explore ties between historical socio-economic systems, modern capitalism, and China’s new power on the global stage. “

Like much 16th and 17th-century Dutch painting, the artist’s still-lifes brim with symbolism and references to historical events. The linen surface is collaged with pages from the Financial Times, literally grounding the work in data and news about the global markets. The painting above, for example, references the

c Detail of “Gardens of Perfect Brightness”

In “Gardens of Summer Brightness,” the two holy mountains of Sinai and Song flank the vase in the background, suggesting a collision that may have led to the fractured pillar. A map of the park punctuated by an architectural ruin tops the pedestal, and the mille-fleurs or “thousand flowers” style, a popular motif in the Qianlong period, decorates the vase. The vessel also contains botanicals by the emperor’s court painter Giuseppe Castiglione and sunflowers to symbolize the face of the sun as a deity and energy source.

Combining inkjet printing methods, acrylic paint, and sand to create a variety of textures and three-dimensional features, Cheung’s flowers appear to delicately float across ethereal surfaces. He assembles each bloom by applying thick paint onto plastic that can be peeled off when dry and collaged onto the canvas. He

Cheung’s solo exhibition The Garden of Perfect Brightness opens at The Atkinson in Southport, England, on June 3. You can find more on his website, and follow Instagram for updates.

“Augury of Dongguan” (2022), Financial Times newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on linen, 87 x 52 x 5 centimeters

Detail of “Augury of Dongguan”

“Augury of Xi’an” (2022), Financial Times newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on linen, 82 x 57 x 5 centimeters

“Augury of Hong Kong” (2022), Financial Times newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on linen, 82 x 57 x 5 centimeters

Detail of “Augury of Hong Kong”

“Traveller From an Antique Land” (2022), Financial newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on paper, 135 x 100 x 5 centimeters

“Timeless Sands” (2022), Financial newspaper, archival inkjet, acrylic, and sand on paper, 135 x 100 x 5 centimeters

Detail of “Timeless Sands”

#art history#capitalism#China#flowers#Gordon Cheung#painting#still life

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