“Once upon a time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but only the Eastern Sea, which was guarded and inhabited by four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon, and the Pearl Dragon. One day the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They soared and dived, racing through the clouds.”
Have you ever heard this ancient story; the story of the four dragons?
It is from a book called Classic of Mountains and Seas, a compilation of mythical geographies and beasts. In its earlier form, the book dates back to the 4th century BC. In these pages, mythical creatures, including the four aforementioned dragons, are at the legendary origin of Chinese geography.
The book describes the mythical formation of mountains and waterways, including China’s four great rivers generated by the dragons’ kindness to deliver rain to the people. These are the Heilongjiang (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe (Yellow River) in central China, the Yangtze (Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.
This story, among others contained in the Classic, greatly inspired Singapore-based Kazak-Russian artist Inessa Kalabekova, whose art practice, spanning from drawing, collage, and painting, has always been nourished by ancient stories, especially those involving magical creatures.
In her collages on canvas, trees, branches, animals, people, and imaginary creatures emerge, resurface, and overlap so that each piece reveals itself to viewers slowly. First, the viewer might be hit by the immediate harmony of forms and colours. At a second glace, distinct figures would start to emerge, so that one could appreciate the figurative elements within a classically-inspired composition; and here you can see her solid traditional background in painting.
Venue: Music Box Museum, 168 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore
When: 1 Dec 2023 - 31 Jan 2024,