Saturday, April 11, 2015

Drawer # 5.3: Bridges

A lot of water under the bridge since the last post…

Little lead bridges from the Bird & Insect Market, [irresistible] gaudy brocades from the Fabric Market, sticker labels from the Haberdashery & Notions Market.

Bridge specimens: the arched bridges of the Summer Palace in Beijing, the zig-zag bridge that leads to the Tea House in the center of the pond at Yu Gardens in Shanghai, a pavilioned bridge for West Lake in Hangzhou: bridges in your pocket.

A detour to Process...

Each of the drawer compartments is a rough cube of space, approximately 5” deep by a little less than 4.5 wide and 4.75” high on the face, offering up several design challenges: The depth of the box inviting all things to disappear into its darkness; the static square which, in the days before Instagram & the iPhone, was so far removed from my preferred compositional shape, the panoramic landscape rectangle…& then, how to get something dynamic, or with a narrative thread, going across the dull rhythm of a 4-square-beat row...

And thus the nature of the project developed: display mounts would have to be built & what to do with them…the solution borrowed in the end from the packaging of goods here, chunky cloth-covered boxes, with little blades of (alas) plastic for stab closures, interiors formed & padded & lined for their content’s safe harbor. In my resistance to altering the cabinet itself - something too venerable & grand in its mass & age for me to permanently impose my dreamings on to it - the liners needed to be removable. Not finding the market of the fabrics that clothed the boxes, (though I know it now: the Chinese painting stores on Fuzhou Lu), I settled on the cheap chinese brocades, with their vivacity of color & pattern, raw & punchy, kin to the plastics & the neon of the city.

As I write this, I'm suddenly reminded of my very first Shanghai purchase, from the shop inside the Jade Buddha Temple. (Buddha, unlike his fellow traveler, apparently did not throw the buyers & sellers out of the temple.) One of the spookier things I’d ever seen for sale. A pale pinky porcelain hand, perhaps that of Buddha, or maybe of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, rising out of a bed of lotus petals: I’m not much of an acquirer but this thing I had to have. As I stood paying, the clerk whisked off with the hand, and on her return, it was yet more a thing of wonder: contained in its very own cloth covered box (whetting my appetite for said boxes), resting on cheap, electrically school- bus-yellow satin (now very familiar as the liner of choice) & secured by red satin ribbon tied in a bow. Like the Cabinet in miniature: formal & sober on the exterior, a racket of color & consternation & delight on the interior…]

(And if you though my Buddha hand was over the top, you should see the one I gave my brother as a wedding present…) 

General wisdom here says that evil spirits are incapable of negotiating zig-zags. He-Whom-I’m-Trailing says that he is relieved to know that one’s demons are so easily out-witted.

Drawer #5.3: each compartment contains one or more cast lead bridges. Miniatures of famous classical Chinese bridge types,  the bridges are from among the objects used in the classical Chinese art form called "pen jing."  A variant of the Japanese tradition of bonsai, in pen jing miniature figurines & buildings are inserted around dwarfed trees & stones to create "a world in a teacup."
Photo credits: Full drawer: Bruno David; all others, the artist.

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