An ideal way of life envisioned by the intellectuals, thinkers, and artists of ancient China would be that of a quaint and tranquil nature haven that provided them with a refuge from the drudgery of society and occasionally reunite with like-minded people to share a cultural appreciation. .
Companions of solitude: seclusion and communication in Chinese art, an ongoing exhibition that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has hosted at its Fifth Avenue location until August 14, 2022, explores this lifestyle choice of cultivated people – in search of a space between them and the world – as depicted in the classical style Chinese paintings, calligraphic pieces and works of art on display.
The works in the exhibition portray the ideal life pursued in pre-modern Chinese society and still followed by some contemporaries — a life surrounded by mountains, rivers, and woods for mental cultivation. The characters seen in the paintings, who can read, drink, travel or enjoy the moment, often turn their backs on the audience, representing the idea of distancing oneself from the troubles of the world.
By exploring the ancient Chinese perception of seclusion and communications, the exhibition invites people to reflect on human relationships at a time when the pandemic has reshaped the physical and virtual contacts of people across the world.