A Thousand-Year Debate on the Imagery of a Plantain Tree in Snow

  • Language: English
  • Target Audience: Adults, Educators/Parents
  • Category: Arts
Availability: 0
Fri, 24 Feb, 2017, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM (GMT+8)

National Library

Level 16 - The Pod

100 Victoria Street, National Library Board, Singapore 188064

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  • Language: English
  • Target Audience: Adults, Educators/Parents

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Speaker: Tan Swie Hian
For access to the Pod, please proceed to lift lobby opposite the information counter.

The Tang poet-painter Wang Wei (王维 699-761) is said to have made a painting depicting the noble man Yuan An(袁安) of the Han Dynasty who, during a snow storm, refused to go out for his livelihood but to lie at home "as the snow is heavy when everyone is hungry, I should not go and trouble people." In it, Wang also painted a plantain tree in the snow.
The painting Yuan An Reclining in Snow (《袁安卧雪图》was first mentioned by its collector Shen Kua (沈括 1031-1095) of the Song Dynasty in his Dream Pool Essays (梦溪笔谈). Ever since, not only has the subject become one of the perennial for artists throughout the ages, but the imagery of the plantain tree in snow has sparked debate among famed artists, critics, scholars and writers for well over a thousand years.

Plantain trees grow only in hot climates and snow falls only in cold countries. How can a plantain tree survive in the snow? Wang's detractors comment that he cannot "tell cold and hot apart". But Wang's appreciators believe that "Wang disregards the seasons when creating".
The painting that no one has ever seen since Shen Kua is long lost. But the debate on a non-existent work continues, creating an unprecedented phenomenon that merits meditation. Now, join acclaimed artist Tan Swie Hian as he weighs in on why Wang did what he did.
This programme is in conjunction with the exhibition Anatomy of a Free Mind: Tan Swie Hian’s Notebooks and Creations, held at the National Library Building (Level 10, Gallery), from 22 November 2016 to 23 April 2017. For more information, please visit nlb.gov.sg/exhibitions/.

About the Speaker
Described by Time magazine as Singapore’s ‘Renaissance man’, multidisciplinary artist Tan Swie Hian has created artworks in a wide range of media and genres. His artistic and literary works extend across a broad spectrum of subjects in multiple languages. He has held 23 solo exhibitions worldwide and won 29 accolades nationally and internationally.


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