It’s a long way from Beijing to Hepburn Springs. But a connection was made when Victorian artist Bridget Bodenham was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria to create a limited-edition range of ceramic pieces inspired by its current exhibition, A Golden Age of China. The major winter exhibition showcases more than 120 pieces of decorative art collected by the Qianlong Emperor, who reigned for 60 years between 1736 and 1795. He was an avid and erudite collector of porcelain, painting, calligraphy and sculpture.
It’s an unusual project: an Australian artist working a on 20-acre bush property, surrounded by the Wombat State Forest and operating out of a converted shipping container, drawing inspiration from rarely seen treasures from the Palace Museum inside China’s ancient Forbidden City.
The NGV approached Bodenham six weeks before the opening, sent her some reference images, and the rest was up to her.
The cup, bowl and plate sets, intended to serve tea and sweets, feature a series of motifs inspired by three classical Chinese symbols: water, wings and flowers, all of which can be found on the Emperor’s opulent silk ceremonial robes.
Cup handles are wing-shaped; gold-dash patterns reference silk thread; and bowls are cut in a scalloped shape that reflects the edges of a flower’s petals.
“The work is obviously different from what I make day-to-day, but there are similarities. I’ve been using eight-carat liquid gold for a while now, because it’s the element that gives it richness and contrast, and I’ve used high-fired porcelain similar to ancient Chinese porcelain,” Bodenham says.
“I always look through the Asian collections when I’m at the gallery and always appreciate something new that I haven’t seen before.’’
The range is exclusive to the NGV Design Store and is available in store and online at store.ngv.vic.gov.au. A Golden Age of China is showing at the NGV International until June 21.