Chinese art has been a massive inspiration behind the creation of the SKYLENCE brand and the pieces we produce. Traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy and embroidery in particular play a central role in the details we adorn our pieces with and we therefore thought it would be interesting to give an insight into a little of the history of each of these artistic mediums.
Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. Painting in the traditional style is known today in Chinese as guóhuà(國畫), meaning ‘national’ or ‘native painting’. Traditional painting involves essentially the same techniques as calligraphy and is done with a brush dipped in black ink or coloured pigments; oils are not used. Artists use ink and water-based colour on paper or silk to create traditional tableaus, most often depicting landscapes, flowers, animals, children and old people etc.. The themes are variations of earlier compositions, continuing a solid historical thread. The differences are in the details.
As with calligraphy, the most popular materials on which paintings are made are paper and silk. The finished work can be mounted on scrolls, such as hanging scrolls or handscrolls. Traditional painting can also be done on album sheets, walls, lacquerware, folding screens, and other media.
In China, calligraphy is referred to as shūfǎ (書法/书法), literally 'way/method/law of writing'. Chinese calligraphy appreciated more or only for its aesthetic quality has a long tradition, and is today regarded as one of the Chinese arts. Chinese calligraphy focuses not only on methods of writing but also on cultivating one's character and taught as a pursuit.
Chinese calligraphy and Chinese Painting are closely related: they are accomplished using similar tools and techniques, and have a long history of shared artistry. Distinguishing features of Chinese painting and calligraphy include an emphasis on motion charged with dynamic life. According to the Welsh actor Stanley-Baker, "Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients." Calligraphy has also led to the development of many forms of art in China, including seal carving, ornate paperweights, and inkstones.
Shanghai Embroidery: Shanghai Embroidery is known as ‘Su Xiu’ (苏绣)--Suzhou embroidery is crafted in areas around Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and Shanghai, having a history dating back 2,000 years. It is famous for its beautiful patterns, elegant colours, variety of stitches, and consummate craftsmanship. Its stitching is meticulously skillful, coloration subtle and refined. Suzhou artists are able to use more than 40 needlework and a 1,000 different types of threads to make embroidery, typically with nature and environment themes such as flowers, birds, animals and even gardens on a piece of cloth.
A rare subset is Su double-sided embroidery which requires the ultimate skill and artistry. The front and back of the piece can contain different designs, but as the ends aren’t knotted but instead woven the back can't be distinguished.
Yue Xiu/Guang Xiu (粤绣/广秀) – Guangdong (Cantonese) embroidery is crafted in Chaozhou, Guangdong Province. It is composed of intricate but symmetrical patterns, vibrant colours, varied stitches and a defined weave. Its use of primary colours, light and shade are reminiscent of western paintings.
In the middle of the Ming Dynasty (circa 1500s), due to the convenience of Guangdong's coastal trade exchanges, Guangdong embroidery started to become famous overseas. At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the British took their costumes to the embroidery studios in Guangzhou to be crafted. Queen Elizabeth I in particular appreciated China's gold threads and silver embroideries. She organised embroidered workshops in the form of those in Guangdong for the Royal Family. From then on Britain started to import silk and threads from China to manufacture the embroidered costumes for the aristocracy. In the 18th century Chinese embroidery started to sweep through the British Royal familiy and high society. As a result the museums in Britain, France, Germany and the United States all have Cantonese embroidery as a huge collection.