CRITIC’S CHOICE

The Herald Magazine - - ARTS | VISUAL -

For the first time in its 500-year his­tory, Sur­geons’ Hall, the mu­seum of the Royal Col­lege of Sur­geons of Ed­in­burgh, will mount an ex­hi­bi­tion of con­tem­po­rary art along­side the cases of pre­served hearts, the anatom­i­cal anom­alies, the dis­eased or­gans.

The fo­cus will be on Zhang Yanzi, an award-win­ning Chinese artist and pro­fes­sor at China’s Cen­tral Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, who spent some time in 2017 at the mu­seum, study­ing the col­lec­tion in depth. The re­sults are on dis­play at the mu­seum. Zhang’s new work deals in heal­ing, en­ergy and hu­man ex­is­tence, which ties with an in­ter­est in things med­i­cal that has coloured much of her re­cent out­put.

Much of it is in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary, and while she works in a num­ber of me­dia her ba­sis is in ink, a tra­di­tional art form which she trans­lates in an en­tirely con­tem­po­rary fash­ion. Her Se­cret Path paintings, cur­rently be­ing in­stalled, are in­spired by a note­book of lec­tures in the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion, as is her Cap­il­lar­ies installation, which will ex­tend down from the ceil­ing. Per­haps the most strik­ing piece, and dis­played not in the ex­hi­bi­tion space but in the Play­fair Gallery (pic­tured), is the 64-me­tre long Qi, a “river of ink on silk… il­lus­trat­ing the en­ergy which flows through the body through the anal­ogy of the flow­ing river,” says Hen­ri­etta Tsui-Le­ung, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ga­lerie Ora-Ora in Hong Kong, which has or­gan­ised the ex­hi­bi­tion with Sur­geons’ Hall. It is part, she says, of the need for con­tem­po­rary art to form a re­sponse against the “real artefacts of life and death”.

A Quest for Heal­ing, Sur­geons’ Hall Mu­se­ums, Ni­col­son Street, Ed­in­burgh, 0131 527 1711, mu­seum.rcsed.ac.uk, un­til 4 Nov, 10am-5pm, en­try to Sur­geons’ Hall (£7/£4) rec­om­mended for those aged 10+ only.

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