Out of the Blue at The Royal Palace in Milan

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Out of the Blue, A Calligraphic Journey through Alcantara is an exhibition promoted and produced by the Municipality of Milan – Culture Department, the Royal Palace of Milan and Alcantara S.p.A., created especially for the Apartment of the Princes, open to the public free of charge from Wednesday 9 September until Sunday 11 October 2020.

The Royal Palace, Milan

The Royal Palace, Milan

The Royal Palace, Entrance of the Apartment of the Princes, Milan

The exhibition, curated by Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli and Katie Hill, is featured in the programme of the Milan Art Week 2020 (7-13 September 2020) and confirms Alcantara’s ongoing interest in the most advanced forms of contemporary creativity.

From left: Katie Hill,  Andrea Boragno (Chairman and CEO Alcantara), Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli

Watch the Introduction to the Exhibition by our Director, Curator, Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli

Calligraphy is one of the most venerated art forms in Chinese culture. In the digital age of advanced technological reproduction, how can this traditional art still flourish as a contemporary vehicle for knowledge, connecting an ancient past with contemporary philosophical enquiry?

In Out of the Blue six renowned Chinese artists investigate this question by offering transversal responses through works that fuse classicism with contemporaneity. Employing Alcantara as a common denominator, the artists explore the versatility of this avant-garde medium in creating works imbued with personal and collective memories. Merging ancient practices with a medium of the future, the thousand-year-old Chinese cultural heritage comes to the fore by acquiring new expressive potentialities.

The Apartment of the Princes at Palazzo Reale is transformed into vibrant experiences where site-specific installations respond to the aesthetics of the rooms by playing on visual affinities and contrasts. Ranging from digital projections to forests of ink on hanging scrolls, the artists draw on the roots of Chinese calligraphic practice to raise questions about the nature of humanity’s relation with the world through Daoist notions of temporality, life-force and participation.

On entering the first room, the viewer walks into an immersive forest of ideograms where calligraphic strokes unfurl smoothly along vertical scrolls. Qu Lei Lei expands on and re-interprets the idea of this ancient practice of calligraphy as a multiplicity of forms evoking the proliferation of the fragmented information surrounding us in contemporary life, capturing extracts of international fake news.

Qu Lei Lei - Fragments

In the second room, Zhang Chun Hong presents a hybridisation that skilfully blends human and natural elements. Using her leitmotif of flowing hair, finely drawn in thin, silken strands following the Gongbi 工笔 style, the artist expresses the concept of life-force through a sculptural work in which nature, body and calligraphy merge.

Zhang Chun Hong - Fall

What we see in the work of Qin Feng are not sketches of an emerging idea as a consummate form, but rather immediate forms of the idea itself. There is no distance between the thought and the primal gesture; the spontaneity of the calligraphic movement exudes a primordial energy, embodying the Daoist principle of Wu Wei 无为 that is ‘action in non-action’.

Qin Feng - Infinity of Temples

In Mao Lizi’s screens vibrant splashes of colour are presented on panels, creating a strong visual rhythm within the zigzag form. According to Daoist philosophy, history does not follow a linear process; it is not a vector but develops according to the concept of synchronicity. The artist’s response to the horizontal line of thought about time is to follow a vertical line, considering phenomena that coexist simultaneously.

Mao Lizi - Passages

In the digital installation by Wang Huangsheng, the eye is drawn upwards, as the continuous movement of words and characters lights up the ceiling, opening up glimpses of passing thoughts and reflections in mesmerising form. The activation of shadows and light, together with long narrow scrolls of densely written lines, creates an immersive visual experience, leading the public to spontaneously engage with the work, in turn disorienting and reorienting the gaze through light and movement.

Wang Huangsheng - In Between

The final exhibit is composed of an immersive video projection and a long scroll painted by Sun Xun. Here the artist draws inspiration from the rhythm of ancient calligraphic practice to create contemporary animations permeated by symbolic elements. A surreal world of mythological creatures and mysterious landscapes suddenly opens up before the viewer, whose presence becomes an integral part of the artwork, generating a participative dimension.

Sun Xun - Space-Time Fissure

Out of the Blue takes the visitor on a calligraphic journey through Alcantara, an optimal medium for the creation of innovative hybridisations of art. Merging ancient Eastern traditions with artistic experimentations of the twenty-first century, each room offers heterogeneous interpretations from contemporary China, evoking the distant past, the unknown future and the relevance of both to the freshness of the present moment.

*All photos are courtesy of Alcantara

About Calligraphy

Recognised by UNESCO as an element of world heritage, more than any other type of writing or ‘alphabet’, Chinese calligraphy has always been appreciated for its aesthetic and artistic value: every stroke appears to have been dictated by a soft and gentle flight, endowed with the flow of life conferred by the very instinctiveness of the gesture and its pictographic nature, for each character is a direct representation of something and its meaning. The great ‘non-action’ of Wu Wei spirituality – the practice of acting without acting, without forcing things but allowing a natural and spontaneous course to flow, to become – joins the aesthetic sphere. Hence the connection to the Tao, or rather the Dao, ‘the way’, the unfaltering principle that gives rise to the cosmos. 


Watch the Artists' Interviews with our Director, Curator, Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli

Explore the ideas behind their creations and their artistic process in action. 

Qu Lei Lei

Qin Feng

Wang Huangsheng

Mao Lizi

Sun Xun

Zhang Chun Hong

Selected Press featuring Out of the Blue

Vogue - Article 

Vanity Fair - Article

Il Sole 24 Ore - Video

Elle Decor - Video, Article 

Exibart - Article 

La Repubblica - Article

Artribune - Article

Ansa - Article

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