In late 2010 The Natural History Museum invited a contemporary Chinese artist to be its first international artist-in-residence for the Images of Nature gallery.
The artist was called Hu Yun, and he comes from Shanghai. He stayed with the museum for three months in September-December 2010. His residency was related to the scientific illustration collection, especially the John Reeves collection. Yun was selected to work with and research the Reeves collection during his time at the museum. He was asked to create a one-off commissioned work based on his time there.
John Reeves came to China in the early 19th century and during his stay in China he commissioned many native Chinese artisans to create scientific illustrations of Chinese plants and animals. The drawings had a certain ‘Chinese’ style to them even though the artisans had been instructed by Reeves to reproduce each specimen in a particular way. Yun responded to these drawings as a contemporary artist. He saw the illustrations as artwork rather than scientific illustrations. Yun used these illustrations, and any experiences he had while working at the museum, to inspire his own work. So the drawings from the 19th century which he examined found their way into his own artwork. Yun was particularly interested in the fact that many of the artisans who created the amazing and intricate drawings are unknown. He decided to make a memorial to the unknown artists, who’s nicknames only had beenlisted by Reeves.
The Natural History Museum, http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/art-nature-imaging/collections/reeves/modern-response/index.html [last accessed 23 October 2012]
Gasworks, http://www.gasworks.org.uk/residencies/detail.php?id=577 [last accessed 22 October 2012]