FINE ART ASIA 2023 Academic Programme

The Beauty of Chinese Lacquer: Aesthetics and Collection of Xipi Lacquer

Presented by Fine Art Asia



Mr Gan Erke, Representative Inheritor of National Intangible Cultural Heritage – the Project Huizhou Lacquerware Decoration Technique; Visiting Researcher of Arts and Crafts Research Institute, Chinese National Academy of Arts
Moderator: Mr Wang Tian Bing, Writer and Scriptwriter
Date: 7 October 2023 (Saturday)
Time: 2:30 – 3:30 pm
Language: Putonghua

In his book “Thirteen Talks on Antiquities”, Ming Dynasty artist, calligrapher and art theorist Dong Qichang (1555-1636) described Xipi (also known as rhinoceros skin lacquer) as among the best, comparable with other ancient techniques, carved cinnabar, the embossed, the incised and the inlay of mother-of pearl”. The scholars of the Ming Dynasty, represented by Dong Qichang, highly praised the beauty of Xipi lacquer, and considered Xipi at the top of the list. This appreciation reflects the taste and aesthetic preferences cherished by scholars and those interested in literature and the arts.

In recent years, traditional lacquer art has experienced a resurgence in interest, attracting collectors’ attention. People are eager to learn more about this art form and start collecting lacquer pieces. However, for many, the process of making lacquer art, especially Xipi, remains a mystery, making it challenging to discern the best pieces and justify their value.

Lacquer artist Gan Erke, a distinguished National Crafts Master of China, will personally share his knowledge with the audience in Hong Kong to illuminate the heritage of Chinese lacquer art and showcase the exceptional craftsmanship involved in creating Xipi lacquer. His expertise promises to provide valuable insights into this ancient art form and its intricate techniques.

Gan Erke (B. 1955) a distinguished National Crafts Master of China, has set a new standard for lacquer craftsmanship, breathing new life into this traditional art form through innovative techniques. Among his varied lacquer styles, the marbled technique known as “Xipi” (rhinoceros hide) stands out, showcasing a millefiori effect achieved by applying and sanding multiple layers of different colored lacquer in a carefully planned sequence.

Gan not only mastered this traditional craft but also introduced novel innovations, particularly his bold and captivating color combinations. He has embraced and inherited the rich Chinese lacquerware tradition, elevating his work to a profound level that embodies the beauty-appreciation of the Song and Yuan Dynasties. Gan’s creations reflect his aesthetic vision, which aims to preserve and revive the highest levels of traditional craftsmanship, resulting in utilitarian objects of great subtlety and beauty.

Gan resides and works in Anhui, China. His lacquer art has garnered international recognition and have been collected by prestigious institutions such as the National Museum of China, National Palace Museum of China, the British Museum in the UK, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as by private collectors in China, Hong Kong, and abroad. In 2011, Gan was invited to participate in the “International Symposium on Ancient Chinese Lacquerware” hosted by the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Furthermore, in 2012, he received a special invitation to participate in the China – Germany International Art Exchange Exhibition held in Germany. Notably, a collection of Gan’s collaborative works with Shang Xia was presented at Christie’s auction in 2015 and 2017, further solidifying his acclaim in the art world.