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How to make artistic creation engaged with the living world became a matter of great concern among artists in Suzhou in the mid-Ming period (ca. 1450-1550). In this lecture, I will discuss this phenomenon by focusing on Shen Zhou’s paintings from life (xiesheng). Shen Zhou primarily developed the method of xiesheng to capture the mundane things and instances around him, including vegetables, plants, animals, insects, and landscapes. At the same time, his painterly instantiation of the ever changing world invoked an aesthetic of archaism (guyi) which promoted the lively forces of imminence and naturalness. The temporal urgency and worldly engagement in Shen’s paintings, I shall argue, manifested structural challenges to views of livelihood and political economy and ecology.
Lihong Liu is Sally Michelson Davidson Assistant Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dr. Liu specializes in Chinese art history of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Her research focuses on time, matter, space, and motion in art, especially with regard to art’s environmental engagement. Liu earned her PhD in the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.