24 Sep ‑ 1 Nov 2014 (except Sun) 9:30am ‑ 6pm (8 hours 30 minutes)
28 Sep ‑ 2 Nov 2014 (every Sun) 1 ‑ 6pm (5 hours)
1/F, Fung Ping Shan Building, UMAG, HKU, Pok Fu Lam Road, Hong Kong
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An exhibition of Suo Zhenhai's Inside-painted Snuff Bottles from the Hong Yuan Collection will be on display from September 24 to November 2, 2014 at the University Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Hong Kong (UMAG). Contemporary miniature painter Suo Zhenhai (1944–2006), a native of Raoyang in Hebei Province, studied the art and culture of the Song and Yuan Dynasties, and the painterly styles and minutely detailed depictions of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. A prolific artist, he has exhibited internationally and gained a reputation for his finely executed artworks, as well as for his work at the Hengshui Xisan Inside Painting Art Academy where he taught for years.

Glass snuff bottles have been made for and collected by Qing Dynasty emperors and noblemen who had an affinity for both snuff and the meticulously crafted containers that held and preserved it. Among the different materials used and artistic styles employed in the making of snuff bottles, those present in inside-painted glass bottles are outstanding for their unique characteristics and their quality of combining delicate painting and small-scale glass sculpture to create a rare, particularly Chinese art form. The museum’s exhibition shows some 150 bottles decorated predominantly with landscape painting and genre scenes. Altogether, the array of objects testifies the Master Suo’s ability to represent ‘a universe within’ and to the more wide-spread and still ongoing interest in and high-quality manufacture of a medium cherished for centuries.

The beautifully composed and painted scenes are closely related to the stylistic properties of scroll painting and testify to a continuous appreciation of ink painting and calligraphy—and its adaptation and rescaling— by twentieth-century literati. This taste and the careful handling of the object and discovering of its detailed quality also reminds of pictorial scrolls as well as the occupation and tactile pleasure scholars enjoyed with other collectables, made-made and naturalia, in both related and foreign substances.

Caption 1: "Landscapes in Four Seasons-Winter", H:7.2cm, W:5.2cm, Glass, 1997, Hong Yuan Collection.
Caption 2: "Clouds", H: 6.7 cm, W: 3 cm, Glass, 1978, Hong Yuan Collection.
Caption 3: "Insects Thriving among Plants", H: 6.8 cm, W: 3 cm, Glass, 2004, Hong Yuan Collection.