Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
January 28, 2003
Student art exhibit celebrates Chinese spring festival, cultural practices
A landscape architecture student who studied and worked in Shanghai is bringing two of China’s cultural practices to the University of Guelph Feb. 1-15.
Mike Salisbury is mounting a temporary art exhibit, “Festival of Trees, a Cross Cultural Celebration,” in front of the University Centre. The exhibit will consist of three trees wrapped in bright red rope and celebrates both the Chinese Spring Festival and the unique Asian horticultural practice of wrapping tree trunks and branches.
“Far and away, the most important holiday in China is the Spring Festival, which begins with the Chinese New Year and culminates with the full moon 15 days later, ” said Salisbury, who spent six months last year serving an internship with a major landscape architecture firm in China. “It’s the time when people get together with family and friends and is also a wonderful celebration of the earth returning to life."
Unrelated to the festival is the Chinese practice of using plain hemp rope to wrap newly-transplanted trees to protect them. “The aesthetics of wrapped trees was my first of many encounters with the different cultural practices of China,” Salisbury said, adding his experiences in the country “changed the way he looks at the world.”
In what he is calling a “personal exploration and interpretation of cultural ideas,” Salisbury is marrying both the spring celebration and tree-wrapping practice in his art installation. “I want to bring them together to raise awareness, initiate discussion and try to make people see what a fantastic festival this is. I mean, it is such a fitting idea for us Canadians, who, after getting through our winters, worship the spring.” He added that using a bright red colour creates a dramatic abstract texture against the backdrop of the cold Canadian winter. “Red is also a Chinese symbol of good luck and hope for the future.”
Salisbury, who is in his fourth year of studies at Guelph, plans to enlist family members and friends in the wrapping, which will take place the last week in January. The rope, he adds, will not be secured directly to the tree in any way. “Extreme care will be taken to ensure that no branches are damaged in any way during the installation or removal of the sculpture.”
Additional information about the Festival of Trees celebration may be found at: www.earthartist.com.