Tao Ke Rui de Riji – Tao Ke Rui's Diaries, 2008
Yannan Art Institution at Westlake Gallery
Curated by Anke Kaltenbach and Yi Lü
Christiana Protto has a very European background. She was born in England and grew up in France and Germany. She studied art in Italy and Germany and architecture in Paris. In 2006 she began to study Chinese language, culture and literature, which is also why she came to Hangzhou. Protto is a traveller and in this exhibition she shows her “travelling studio”.
This house is a very unique one, it is known as the “green house” and is a listed building. Fascinated by the structure of the old walls Mrs. Protto decided to hang her drawings very lightly.
On the first floor you will find a little room, used by the artist and gallery owner Tong Yanrunan as office and painting studio. When the artist started to build her “travelling studio” she not only took in consideration the architectural characteristics but included the things she found on site, thus taking possession of the room (...)
Whilst the open drawers of the little closet upstairs are reminders of the open drawers in western renaissance oil-painting, the still-lifes on the table, little objects and flowers – remind us of our fugacity, life and death, the books, some are open some closed, symbolize knowledge and the quest for learning.
Integrated in the floor of the gallery, the “cellar” Protto has arranged among other houshold-objects a little girl’s dress with golden coins and gas for lighters, an allusion to a northern European fairy tale named “the little girl with the matches”.
In her travelling studio upstairs Protto included six calligraphies, all of them saying: ‘Licking my fingers after I have finished my meal is my most precious habit.’ This sentence Mrs Protto has found in a Chinese schoolbook. Five of the six calligraphies are signed with Tao Ke Rui (which is Mrs. Protto’s Chinese name). The artist had asked calligraphers to write this sentence about cultural habits in a calligraphy stile and sign it in her name. So we don’t know, who the real author is, which raises the question for intellectual property and copy right. The only calligraphy that is not signed is actually done by Mrs. Protto, written in western style, from left to right.
Let me now go downstairs to the small room under the studio, where six big photographs are opening the walls like windows would do. Two are landscapes from the yellow mountains, the three photographs made in Hangzhou show the qiantang river, Yanan street in the snow, and finally her room, where she has done all the drawings, shown in this exhibition.
As you know Hangzhou is one of the centres of Chinese ink painting. Like in traditional Chinese ink paintings Protto included Chinese characters, transcending them in a Western way. Reading her notes you can learn a lot about her daily life or as she once said, about her “desperate attempt to learn Chinese characters”.
Some of the motifs are inspired by traditional paintings, others by sculptures or done after photographs from the forties, some are from her daily life or based on impressions while traveling in china.
The motifs are Chinese but performed in a western way, some are on the edge between figurative and abstract, leaving a lot of space to the fantasy of the viewer.
When hanging them in groups, it was interesting how the composition of the groups changed until every drawing found the perfect partner and space within the exhibition.
I think Tao Ke Rui’s Diaries show us a lot about Mrs. Protto’s way of looking at the world and art and about her life (...)
Text by Anke Kaltenbach, 2008
Conceptual Calligraphy work includes calligraphies by
Tao Ke Rui (Protto)
Exhibition documented in:
Reise in den Osten – Dong You Ji -
Journey to the East
Ed. C. Protto
Frankfurt am Main, 2010