Chinese painting and calligraphy have been popular art decoration in Chinese household for thousands of years. I brought a couple pieces to the States with me, but never had an opportunity to display them:
This ink and wash landscape art is the most popular form of Chinese painting. The other piece I own is calligraphy art:
Chinese painting and calligraphy were drawn on Xuan paper which is soft and fragile. In order to display them, they have to be mounted onto some kind of backing paper first, before being inserted into frames or layered onto silk scrolls.
Dry mounting the calligraphy pieces
There are two ways to mount calligraphy art, wet mount and dry mount. Since I’ve never done either of the two ways before, I chose the dry mount method which looks more foolproof. The dry mount method involves first mounting the art piece onto silicone adhesive paper, then transfer the art to some kind of backing paper. To mount the art pieces onto the silicone adhesive paper, you need an iron, a spray bottle of water, and some thin paper to layer between the iron and the art work. I used a regular clothing iron with parchment paper (for baking).
You also needed a soft but supportive surface to iron on. Since my art pieces were large, I spread a flat sheet on top of our big coffee table which worked very well.
I unrolled the silicone adhesive paper, trimmed it a hair narrower and shorter than the art piece, then layered the art work on top of it.
Then I gently misted the art work with water using the spray bottle. This step is for releasing the tension in the Xuan paper and reduce wrinkles and fold marks. Pay attention to only mist small amount of the water on the art work – the Xuan paper should not be soaking wet. And you do not want to get water on the silicone paper because that will add wrinkle to the final result.
After spraying the Xuan paper wet, I carefully laid the parchment paper on top of the art work, and immediately started ironing. A safe tip is to mist the art work first before even laying it on top of the silicone adhesive paper – and you can always mist the back of the painting instead of the front.
Definitely, definitely do not use the steam function on your iron – it will smear the art and even melt the Xuan paper. Iron the art onto the silicone adhesive paper using low-temp setting (such as silk).
This particular art piece is nearly 5′ long, so I started ironing from one end, and worked my way up to the other end.
The silicone adhesive paper is supposed to function as a double sided tape, either to connect the art piece to backing paper for framing, or to connect the art piece directly to a hanging scroll. However, I found that the silicone paper was rigid enough and could serve as alternative backing paper. So I did not use backing paper in this project.
I used the same method to mount the calligraphy piece. It is smaller so the final result was better:
Spray, layer, then iron. I worked this piece from the middle out to the sides, so there was no wrinkles at all:
The dry mount method is fairly straightforward. It only took 15 minutes to get both pieces mounted.
Framing the calligraphy
To frame the calligraphy I ordered a black frame online. The frame is made with solid wood and acrylic sheet, with a foam board backing. The construction is decent, but a bit too pricy in my opinion. I should have made my own frame with solid wood and glass for much cheaper, but considering the hours involved in DIY frames I decided to go with the easier route.
I hung the calligraphy piece in my retreat room. I think it pairs well with the hanging plants and bamboo blinds. This piece says “Heaven rewards those who are industrious; The virtuous bear duties onerous”. A more literal translation will be “The Heavens are in motion ceaselessly; The enlightened exert themselves constantly. While the Earth is supportive and natural, Only the virtuous can bear the utmost”.
Hanging the ink painting
Displaying the ink painting is a bit more difficult. Traditionally, Chinese paintings are displayed on silk-brocaded hanging scrolls with wood rods at the bottom to weight the piece down. However, any hanging scrolls I could found online was too small for this landscape art.
The simplest way I could think of to display the painting is to add two wooden edges on the top and the bottom of the painting. In this way I can hang the art from the top wooden edge, and the bottom edge can weight down the painting just like the wood rod on the hanging scroll.
I found a scrape 1″ x 2″ wood piece, cutting it to length to create two wooden edges.
I shaped the ends of the two wooden edges like arrowheads for a better look.
To secure the wooden edge onto the painting, I added another piece of scrap wood at the back, so the painting could be sandwiched in between the two wooden pieces.
To joint the two pieces of wood together, a nail gun was used with the painting in between.
It looked like this from the front of the painting. We used the same method to create the top edge, then installed mounting hardware on the back of it.
With a couple pieces of scrap wood and 20 minutes of my time, the simple mounting method is easy and effective.
The landscape painting was hung in our basement media room, accompanied by a couple large-scale of oil paintings. I think the white empty wall in this room allows large-scale paintings to be the focus of the room.
The final results
Here are both of the art work in our home! The results from dry mounting and DIY hanging scroll are satisfying. I like the dose of traditional vibe these art injected into my home. Both art work was actually drawn by a good friend of my parents, whom I called uncle growing up. After years keeping his art work in drawers and collecting dust, it feels so nice to finally having them displayed and appreciated.
What do you think of the results? Do you like traditional Chinese art?