It’s a story found in cultures across the planet: a traveler finds a magnificent city, a utopia. But when the traveler attempts to find his or her way back to the city, it is nowhere to be found.
Artist Xu Bing tapped into that fable with an installation at Chatsworth last year, Tao Hua Yuan: A Lost Village Utopia. It coincided with Sotheby’s Beyond Limits outdoor sculpture exhibition. Xu’s version of the tale involves a fisherman and so the sculpture utilizes a pond on the estate, adorned with rocks and ceramic ornaments.
“The cluster of rocks have come from nine separate regions in China and have been arranged with flowers and little ceramic figures, houses and animals made by the artist to represent a Utopia, where people live in perfect harmony with nature. It is inspired by a popular 5th century AD Chinese fable called Tao Hua Yuan, or Peach-Blossom Spring, in which a fisherman discovers such a community, but, when trying to lead fellow city dwellers to it, fails to find it again.
“Tao Hua Yuan is arranged to resemble a classical Chinese landscape painting, allowing viewers to experience it in three dimensions. Not only is Xu Bing a leading contemporary artist, but he is also a proponent of tradition. He is concerned that modern industrialised society has lost its respect for nature, which it needs to regain to achieve happiness. The story of the Peach Blossom Spring is, he says, a metaphor in which the ideal world we long for seems to be so far away. In this sense, his work at Chatsworth can be seen not only as an ecological rallying cry, but also an offer of healing for disillusioned spirits.
“Given its position, Xu Bing’s transformative work can be viewed up close or from above through the windows of Chatsworth’s State Rooms, presenting both the grounds and the work in a new light.”
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