Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Silk Road to culture at Qatar Museums Gallery

The Peninsula  Qatar's Daily Newspaper 
March 28, 2016

Ms. Xue Yan, Curator speaking during a press preview  of the Chinese Art of silk at Katara, Photo by Kammutty VP

Chinese sericulture and silk art and trade dating back more than 2,000 years are explored in an exhibition which recently opened at Qatar Museums (QM) Gallery at Katara.

By Raynald C Rivera 

Chinese sericulture and silk art and trade dating back more than 2,000 years are explored in an exhibition which recently opened at Qatar Museums (QM) Gallery at Katara.

Visitors to the “Silks from the Silk Road – Chinese Art of Silk” exhibition will know more about silk as a product and a vital element of Chinese culture. It provides valuable insights on the history of the Silk Road and its importance as a bridge for economic and cultural exchange between East and West.

In collaboration with Qatar Museums, the China National Silk Museum brought a collection of over a hundred pieces for the exhibition which is organised as a vital element of the ongoing 2016 Qatar China Year of Culture.

By virtue of its location, Qatar played an important role as a hub on the Maritime Silk Road and provided invaluable contributions to the development of the Silk Road trade route. 

“One of the highlights of the exhibition is clothing that belong to different dynasties,  some of which have similarities and connections,” said Xue Yan, researcher at China National Silk Museum and curator of the exhibition.

One of the pieces on display, which might be of interest to Arab audience, is a costume which can be traced back to the 13th Century. The said costume bears Arabic letters, which, Yan said proves the Silk Road contributed in a big way to communication both in cultural and economic aspects between nations.

Exhibition visitors are given a chance to witness a number of garments used in ancient China such as a replica of a straight hem robe with longevity pattern worn during the time of the Han Dynasty from 3rd century BC to 1st century AD.

The exhibition features the material properties and diverse uses of silk, as well as the products created throughout history. It also delves into the different techniques of silk production, traditional embroidery, ornamental brocading, the Kesi weaving technique, silk painting, and new silk design concepts.

Even though thousands of years have already passed, these ancient methods and techniques in silk production and designs remains alive up to this day.

“Bamboo and Birds”, a three-piece tapestry which welcomes visitors at the entrance of the expo, is an example of a modern silk artwork using traditional Chinese techniques. Three traditional techniques were used in the making of such piece, which highlights a familiar scenery in China, namely embroidery, printing and Kesi - a type of weaving done by the tapestry method in fine silk and gold thread.

The ancient art of silk design has been passed on from generation to generation and is manifest in creations of today’s Chinese fashion designers, some of whom have gained wide acclaim reaping awards internationally.

One of the costumes showcased is a gown designed with the phoenix as an inspiration, which Yan said, is a very auspicious and sacred animal in China. The gown incorporates traditional embroidery and cut which mimick the feathers and the tail of the sacred bird. 

Paper cutting is an ancient art in China done during auspicious times. They cut paper and stick them on the window to create a joyful atmosphere and this ancient art is fused into the design of a silk gown which is shown at the expo.

Chinese ink painting has been effectively employed in another dress which has also used western silhouette techniques in its design. 

Modern techniques applied in traditional dresses are also evident in a couple of exhibits which combine acrylic materials to silk in a mosaic design resulting to a combination of varied textures.

Environment awareness has been underlined in the design of a black sik dress which can be worn in eight varying ways.

“It encourages people to be more environment friendly because it can be worn in eight ways so it is like having eight pieces of clothing,” explained Yan. 

Also showcased at the expo are the art of silk, including the new digital textile technology and the integration of traditional weaving and dyeing techniques.

Zhang Qian, a Chinese official and diplomat who played a significant role in opening China to commercial trade in the 2nd century BC, by setting up the Silk Road, is also included in the exhibition.

The exhibition includes 100 selected silk products and modern artistic works of silk garments, as well as other accompanying exhibits such as ceramic tea sets and tea works. 

Also included in the expo is a loom, which Yan said is an implement every home in China possesses in ancient times as crucial to the production of silk fabrics.

Prior to the launch of the exhibition, several public programmes were organised including a talk by curator Xue Yan that explored Chinese silk on the Silk Road from the 10th to the 14th century and a number of interactive tie-dyeing workshops. 

The exhibition is open to the public until May 9.

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