top of page

Art and history in Northeast Asia: (re)Viewing the past 
10:15am-11:30am AEDT

Postgraduate Workshop: Asian Art Research Now 

18 November 2022, 9am-5:10pm

Zoom Online Meeting/Seminar 


Book'n'things: Tradition and Innovation in the Art of 'Chaekgeori' from Joseon Korea

Fiona McConnell (University of Melbourne)

Chaekgeori, “books and things” from Joseon Korea, are painted panel screens featuring shelves stacked with books and other symbolic objects (usually scholars’ implements, ceramics, coral, and antiquities). This art form is an excellent example of interactions between different cultural traditions from Europe (Cabinet of Curiosities), China (Forbidden City China cupboard) and Korea (a book-loving scholarly culture) combining to create an original, experimental, and innovative art form that was a celebration of books and learning.


Chaekgeori screens led to societal change: representing books as focal objects on a screen, rather than valuable as content to be read, was innovative. It led to an increase in the value of books generally, as well as contributing to rising consumerism. Traditional attitudes toward s books and learning in Korean society drove the adoption of these artworks, but it was the artists’ experiments with space and perspective (combined with the subjects depicted) that made each screen unique and innovative. These artistic and social developments will be explored through a close reading of chaekgeori artworks, exploring the ways that traditional European and Chinese art combined with Korean scholarly attitudes to produce an entirely new and unique bookish art form.



Fiona McConnell is studying for a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne, after completing a Graduate Diploma in Arts.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Classical Languages (Latin) from the University of Queensland and brings a unique perspective to exploring East Asian Art from her earlier specialisation in medieval manuscripts.

Fiona first presented on Chaekgeori screens at the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand (BSANZ) 2019 Annual Conference. She acknowledges the support of both the Eugenie La Gerche and Ursula Hoff Scholarships awarded by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts.

Picture 1.jpg

Books and Scholars’ Accoutrements, late 1800s. Yi Taek-gyun (Korean, 1808-after 1883). Ten-panel folding screen; ink and color on silk; overall: 197.5 x 395 cm (77 3/4 x 155 1/2 in.); painting only: 139.3 x 330.8 cm (54 13/16 x 130 1/4 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 2011.37

Beauties For Export? Challenging Images of Women in Reverse-Glass Paintings 

Maria Karageorge (University of Sydney) 

Picture 1.jpg

Anne Anlin Cheng (2018) considers the ‘tying of ornamental artifice to Asiatic femininity’ in Euro-American visual and literary culture. However, she has only acknowledged this form of ornamental personhood as it lives in and has been problematically shaped by the oriental (Western) imagination. This paper pushes her concept by identifying the role which male Cantonese artisans played in the production of ornamental personhood(s), and in constructing oriental ideas about the Chinese female body. It examines images of women in the eighteenth-century decorative objects known as reverse-glass, or mirror-paintings. These objects were made by local artisans in the various shops and studios within Canton’s foreign quarter from 1757 onwards, when the city become the sole point of international trade with China. Many scholars have established the agency with which these makers selected and styles, materials, technologies, and subject matter that were local as well as foreign. As they sought to portray women in their works, the makers of glass-paintings often drew from the visual repertoire of meiren hua or “beautiful-woman” painting. This paper asks: how was the traditional function of meiren-hua as it involved the display of female beauty for male viewing pleasure appropriated for Western customers?



Maria Karageorge completed her Honours in Art History at the University of Sydney, after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce (Liberal Studies). She was awarded the Francis Stuart Prize for her work on Export Art and visuality in eighteenth-century Canton. Her research interests include the early modern decorative arts of China and South-East Asia, material culture, and women’s histories. She has worked for Bonhams Australia and volunteered institutions including the National Art School and the Powerhouse Museum. In 2021, she worked with the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ public programs team to produce video content for ArtExpress.

Painting of a lady in a blue robe seated on a scarlet stool by a table with fruit and flowers watching two dogs play, Qing dynasty, 1724, artisan unknown, Guangzhou (Canton), oil on glass, George II carved and pierced giltwood frame, 66 x 50 cm, Sotheby’s Digital Studio

By A Thousand Cuts: Wounding the Historical Image 

Darren Tanny Tan (Victorian College of the Arts)

Photography has a vexed relationship with history. As an evidential medium, its ability to recall the past through a compressed record of time and space in the form of a static image leaves little doubt that what is depicted has transpired. Significantly, it is precisely because of its staticity—as a still image extracted from the continuum of reality leaving much room for multiple narratives to be contrived—that the medium derives its propensity for subverting the "truth". Photographs can corroborate the notion of history but it is a corroboration that is predominately contingent on the subjective consciousness that encounters them.

In this presentation, I will examine the so-called "lingchi photographs" and the vexed relationship between these images and their history. The lingchi photographs were a set of historical photographs that depicted the extreme capital punishment referred to as lingchi—or more commonly known by its misnomer, "death by a thousand cuts"—that was practised in China until the early 20th century. By analysing the historical aspects of lingchi within the Chinese legal system and the varied ways in which the corresponding photographs are circulated and understood, I argue that the lingchi photographs serve as unreliable witnesses to history. 



Darren Tanny Tan is a Singapore-born artist based in Melbourne/Naarm. His practice at once examines and betrays notions of history, the body, and their representations. Central to his approach are unorthodox image-making processes that result in the rupturing and obfuscating of images. He holds a Bachelor of Photography and a Master of Contemporary Art. 


Lingchi #2, 2021. Archival pigment print. 

bottom of page