KEN Martin, one time head of architecture at the old Liverpool Poly, has a habit of surprising us with shows at his Mathew Street art gallery.
His latest, due to open on Thursday, can rightly be called a world scoop.
For the first time in the West, the amazing lifelong work of artist Xiaodong Yang, the keeper of one of the cultural treasures of the Orient – the Grotto Art of the Tianshui Mountain caves – is to go on show at The View Two here in Liverpool.
The network of almost 200 caves, carved into the mountain in Gansu Province by Buddhist monks 1,600 years ago, is the solitary workplace of artist Yang.
For almost two decades he has had the task of painstakingly copying around 200 frescoes painted on their walls and ceilings.
The ancient works remained hidden until the middle of the last century, but time, weather and earthquakes have taken their toll on many.
Yang explained: "We are trying hard to protect and preserve the original murals but many have faded. I work eight hours a day in the caves, carefully making copies of these wonderful works so future generations can enjoy them.
For Yang, the day-to-day means climbing up the side of the mountain, facing loneliness (most of the caves are closed to the public) and poisonous cave-dwelling snakes as he goes about his work.
View Two Gallery owner Ken said: "It is an amazing honour for View Two to display Yang’s work, especially as his work has never before being shown outside China.
"Luckily in Liverpool we have a Chinese architect andartist, Miss Xia Lu, a friend of Yang since they attended the same school in Gansu Province.
“When it became apparent Yang was available for a short exhibition of his paintings, at very short notice, View Two was asked to curate the event. Yang was aware of Liverpool’s cultural tradition and was most happy to come to our city."
Yang, 40, was born at Tianshui, Gansu Province. After graduating in art from Longdong Institute in China he specialised in traditional Chinese painting until he joined the Art Research Group at the Institute of Maiji Mountain Grotto Art.
Yang added: “For me the passion for the grottos makes my work a labour of love. At last we have faithful copies of artworks dating back sixteen centuries.”
It is thought monks travelling the Silk Road chose the mountain as a temple and place of worship when they brought Buddhism to China, from India, around 400AD. The caves were decorated with carvings and colourful murals, mainly from the late Qin Period (384AD-417AD).
*Yang’s exhibition, View Two Gallery, 23 Mathew St, Liverpool, L2 6RE, is open this Thursday, Friday and Saturday (8-10 Nov) noon until 5pm and the same the following week. On Thursday, November 15, a special review event will be held when visitors will be able to meet artist Yang. Entrance to the exhibition and the review evening is free.
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