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12 May 2001: Shanghai Art Museum @ Shanghai, China

I chanced upon the Shanghai Art Museum (上海美术馆) while walking along Nanjiing West Road to the People’s Square. The banner by the roadside displayed the art gallery’s feature works of world famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989). Without hesitation, I bought the ticket to view some of this Spanish artist’s collections here. 

Salvador Dali

Ascension of St Cecilia, 1955 (Oil on canvas, 81 x 66 cm): This painting is from the times Dali showed some respect to the Catholic Church. He already has in his mind the knowledge of the existence of theories about the structure of the matter. The elements employed here are similar to the rhinoceros horn, which he believed possessed special geometrical features.

Dematerialization Near the Nose of Nero, 1947 (Oil on canvas 76 x 46cm):  Against an Ampordan plain, a huge pomegranate has been spliced, like an atom, into two parts. Seeds spill out from the pomegranate, floating in the air between the two halves. A bust of Nero hovers above the dissected cube that houses the pomegranate. The bust itself has split into four parts, (or alternatively, the four parts are coming together to form a whole). Dalí’s use of a Classical theme such as Nero is emphasized by the Classical architecture that hangs over Nero’s head. However, it is not just the content that marks this painting’s Classical style; the brushwork is meticulous, the depiction realistic and the balance within it also evokes the Classical style, while being at the same time Dalí’s interpretation of atomic force.

I took the opportunity to view other galleries in the museum.

Chinese Farmers’ Paintings

Chinese farmers’ paintings (农民画) have become important cultural movement in China. Their works reflect the changing political situations in China. Though their themes, compositions and colors were greatly affected by the “left” political forces, majority of their paintings depict the daily works and living activities of the farmers – fields, farmhouses, flocks of chickens, ducks and other animals. The paintings originated from things in real life, but the turn outs seem more idealistic and beautiful than real life.  

Play Shadow Arts

Shadow Plays (皮影戏) were once a feature of Shanghai culture. A man named Mao Gengyu from Qibao Town first introduced this art to Shanghai area. The Shadow Plays are performed based on widely-known historical events in local dialect with colorful drawings and expressive music to illustrate the emotions of the characters.

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