"Sensuous Surfaces" is a richly illustrated and in-depth introduction to the decorative arts in Ming and Qing dynasty China. Jonathan Hay explores materials and techniques, as well as issues of patronage and taste, which together formed a loose system of informal rules that affected every level of decoration in early modern China, from an individual object to the arrangement of an entire residential interior. By engaging the actual and metaphoric potential of surface, Hay contends, this system guided the production and use of the decorative arts during a period of explosive growth, which started in the late sixteenth century and continued until the mid-nineteenth century. This understanding of decorative arts in China made a fundamental contribution to the sensory education of its early modern urban population, both as individuals and in their established social roles. "Sensuous Surfaces" is also an elegant meditation on the role of pleasure in decoration. Often intellectually dismissed as merely pleasurable, Hay argues that decoration is better understood as a necessary form of art which can fulfil its function only by engaging the human capacity for erotic response.
Featuring around 250 colour images of a wide range of early modern Chinese objects and artworks, this book will engage anyone with an interest in decoration, art, China or the experience of pleasure itself.
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Number of pages: 272
Dimensions: 250 x 190 mm
"In addition to communicating Hay's own pleasure in his subject, the book itself is also a pleasure to behold with a well-designed layout and many excellent illustrations. Decoration is a fascinating subject which resonates far beyond any particular period or country."
"A very intelligent book, and each of the author's main points is fleshed out in complex detail. Hay is to be commended for restoring the decorative arts to a central place within the theoretical discourse of art history."
"Jonathan Hay's Sensuous Surfaces
, focusing on portable interior decorative objects of the Ming and Qing periods, circa 1570-1840, examines the fascinating yet little-explored sensuous surfaces of what the Qing taste-maker Li Yu called wanhao zhi wu
or 'pleasurable things.'"--Oxford Art Journal