The Order of Nature: Geometry and Patterns

This module will encourage students to contemplate Geometry’s true inherent meaning in the realm of the order of nature. Students will experience geometry as a contemplative discipline. The skill of concentration, which draws forth the virtue of patience, is required throughout their whole studies. Students will deepen their knowledge of design principles by studying patterns and proportions of six-, eight-, twelve- and ten-fold symmetries and their associated proportional systems. Students will also be able to analyse these patterns in the context of artistic and architectural elements. These designs will then be applied into a variety of art and craft modules.  

Alchemy of Color: Methods and Materials

Students will learn how to prepare colour pigments, grounds and supports according to traditional methods. They will blend paint layers using various techniques to acquire practical knowledge and understanding of colour harmony and symbolism. This modules investigates the use of natural pigments - their origin, recipes, menaing and application.

Colour exploration is of extreme value to students learning crafts. Each student will investigate the subtleties of colour to achieve unity, harmony, and contrast, skills later transferred within the art and craft modules. Painting skills will be nurtured through practice upon examples of patterns and traditional Chinese landscape painting, with a wider context of applying the principles of colour harmony in themed design projects.

The Language of Nature: Design Motifs

In this course, students will learn how to create traditional Islamic patterns, inspired by nature. We will explore the relationship between Islamic and Chinese natural-inspired designs, looking at how the Silk Road ceramic trade facilitated a creative flowering between these two cultures. Students will learn about stylised Islamic patterns and their roots in the natural world. They will experience centuries-old painting techniques from Islamic art, specifically from Islamic manuscripts, and have the opportunity to make their own paints from pigments, including an earth colour, ultramarine blue, and a paint made from real gold - known as shell gold.
Students will learn traditional design principles from the world of Islamic art. The second week of the course will focus on giving students the skills to create their own nature-inspired patterns for a set of ceramic tiles. After developing their designs, they will use painting techniques learnt in week 1 to add colour. We will also take a closer look at connections between Chinese and Islamic art, and the influence of the Silk Road trade on the traditional arts of these two cultures.  



The principles and techniques learnt in the Design Modules will be applied in a series of Art and Craft modules drawn from the Chinese cultural heritage. This unique methodology of integrating the disciplines of design and craft gives students the opportunity to appreciate and apply their artistic heritage in the contemporary context.

The Constitution of Shanshui: Landscape and Geomancy

Part one: in three dedicated lectures, Prof. Ding Xiyuan will analyse the formation of Chinese landscape painting (shanshui), explain the ‘five elements’ theory embedded in shanshui art, and introduce theories of geomancy reflected through shanshui. The lectures will include an analysis of historical masterpieces, which will allow a deeper insight into the history and thought of the above-mentioned narratives and theories. This will be a valuable learning opportunity both for practitioners and lovers of shanshui art. 

Part two: this course focuses on the compositional structure of Chinese landscape painting (shanshui) as the key thread in establishing a foundational understanding of the genre. Specifically, concentration will first be on brushwork formation, and then continue to the study of painting techniques for the two most fundamental elements of Chinese landscape art—rocks and trees—through both copying old masters paintings and sketching from nature. The next topic of study is the methodology of placement in the composition, which is the core of shanshui painting, and the means by which the ancients encapsulated the formal codes of the natural world. Within a period of two weeks, students will have completed two study projects: a study of rocks and trees based on copying, and a landscape composition created by painting in nature.

Give Form to Myriad Things: Calligraphy

There will be two main areas of instruction, as follows 1. The history and practice of calligraphy; 2. The role of the written character and of traditional ideographic studies in the development of Chinese thought systems. The former provides indispensable core knowledge of the culture of calligraphy, while the latter discusses the way that the ideographic word reflects China’s articulation of the principles of Nature.

Construction of Paradise: Principles of Chinese Classical Garden

This course takes students through the compositional elements and design principles ofthe traditional Chinese garden, and encourages them to think about the significance of landscape painting to gardens, and contemplate the philosophical aspects of traditional garden art. In theprocess, students will learn to transfer designs from flat plane to three-dimensional structure; in particular, the process by which the waterways, plants and groves of a landscape painting on paper can be transformed into a physical landscape. Through the study of layering of the rocks, coordination of the waterways, selection of flowers, trees and plants, and the design and construction of pavilions, platforms, and interior design, students will learn how each of the elements form their own systems and at the same time constitute an organic whole, thus furtherdeepening their understanding of garden design. Students will also make onsite visits to classic gardens, where they will further learn to identify garden composition and construction techniques and apply them to their design process.