November 2021 | Volume 23 No. 1
Art from All Angles
Named UMAG STArts, the initiative comprises a series of programmes that link with the Museum’s permanent collections and highlight interdisciplinary studies of art history, novel technologies and conservation and their multiple crossover points within science, technology and arts.
“We are a university museum, so fundamentally we want to teach and share knowledge,” said UMAG Director Dr Florian Knothe. “Each programme features an art-related theme – a technique, medium, material, or genre – and will be a dynamic museum learning experience that is different to the traditional mode of art exhibitions.
“I studied both object conservation and art history and see the development of technical art history as a hugely important part of art education in our field. UMAG has an interesting collection to support this effort: we teach more materials and techniques and make our students and the general public aware of the science and technology involved in art making – something your typical art history lecture does not confer.”
The first programme, Learn with UMAG, kicked off with painting, and was centred around a recently acquired work by Hong Kong artist Ng Lung-wai who employs a striking ‘folding paint’ technique, partly inspired by the traditional art of paper-folding. Painting Across the Threshold included an interview with Ng, discussing how he made paper boats as a boy and developed this into a colourful and thoughtful work in which “the little vessels symbolise a voyage of blessings”.
Currently running is the second programme, Celadon Ceramics, based around the Museum’s extensive collection of green ware. “STArts aims to introduce topics – like our present discussion of green ware – to scholars, students, and the general public alike,” said Dr Knothe. “The programme includes different topics that introduce the making of historic and contemporary artefacts in ceramic, bronze and silver, textile, glass, and lacquer, etc, to discuss the material culture of art by examining different art forms and time periods.”
As part of the Painting Across the Threshold exhibition, Hong Kong artist Ng Lung-wai hosted workshops which gave participants a glimpse into Ng’s creative practice, in addition to learning how to fold paint under the artist’s tutelage.
New Study Gallery
The green ware is displayed in the newly refurbished Study Gallery and via a virtual exhibition, which includes a 3D Gallery presenting three-dimensional artefact models. UMAG’s collection spans a period of more than 1,500 years of celadon’s history, from the early lead-glazed pottery of the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE) to the highly-prized Guan wares of the Song dynasty (960–1279 CE).
The new Study Gallery was designed specifically for STArts. Dr Knothe said: “When the Museum’s historic Fung Ping Shan Building was renovated, I decided to move our departmental library, which occupied the space for many years, to create a new public gallery and thereby not only give the public even more access to our 1930s building, but also create a physical space for STArts (in parallel to our digital portal and online exhibitions). This new Study Gallery is both a display area and a classroom. We schedule exhibitions as well as classes we teach for the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Education in this intimate space.”
The green ware displayed in the Glazed and Fired exhibition in the newly A virtual 3D Gallery lets the viewer examine three-dimensional artefact models. refurbished Study Gallery.
A virtual 3D Gallery lets the viewer examine three-dimensional artefact models.
Following the latest exhibition Glazed and Fired, the next presentations will be Cast and Chased then Woven and Encrypted to discuss the materials and techniques in the making of metal and textile objects. “As with our larger public exhibitions, the variety of subjects is hugely important to us and allows us to accompany the exhibitions with education programmes that include lectures, demonstrations, guided visits and workshops,” said Dr Knothe.
STArts has been very well received so far. “The interdisciplinary character and the opportunities to also work on and off campus with a cross-faculty approach are innovative and – I am happy to say – of interest,” said Dr Knothe. “Initially, we had a UGC [University Grants Committee] teaching and learning grant to get us started (no pun intended) and this year we won a GRF [General Research Fund] grant. Both funding schemes allow us to use external money to develop advanced, applied and solution-oriented teaching models.”
Now that STArts is up and running, Dr Knothe wants to develop the platform collaboratively. “We advanced several of our own ideas to get the academic model going and look forward to more collaboration on and off campus with departments interested in art, science, and technology, and, of course, with everybody else who joins us to think outside the box!”
Each programme features an art-related theme – a technique, medium, material, or genre – and will be a dynamic museum learning experience that is different to the traditional mode of art exhibitions.
DR FLORIAN KNOTHE