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  • This is a small fan painting by the painter Liang Kai

  • done in the first half of the thirteenth century. Now it's mounted as an album leaf

  • and depicts a poet strolling on the marshy land,

  • across the river is a little embankment,

  • and a few sketched lines of a distant peak.

  • It's a very light, very airy composition. The subject matter is quite conventional,

  • but the way it is treated here is very unusual. Many paintings of this time used lots of empty space,

  • but if you look at it closely, there's a diagonal across the middle of the composition.

  • The unpainted part is actually solid; it's not just mist, it's actually a massive boulder behind it.

  • I think that there's a metaphorical dimension to it,

  • that reflects the psychological weight

  • of the stroller beneath it. This kind of composition

  • is very often associated with the poet Qu Yuan,

  • a major court minister very devoted to the nation and to the ruler, but because of some slander he was exiled

  • and he drowned himself in the river to show his loyalty.

  • And Liang Kai used this overhanging,

  • massive rock

  • above him to show his emotional state. Liang Kai

  • may feel some affinity with the ancient poet. He was

  • briefly a court painter, and then something happened. He left his prestigious position at court

  • and went to live in a Buddhist monastery and he painted there very much in the Buddhist idea

  • of an illusory nature of a phenomenon. He's playing on the idea about the deceptive nature

  • of what can be seen on the surface,

  • and the reality may be behind the clouds, behind the mist.

This is a small fan painting by the painter Liang Kai

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