Each year we select and award dissertation prizes for outstanding essays written by undergraduate and postgraduate students. Winning and shortlisted essays are assessed on the quality of their originality, research and method, and form and content.

Prize winning essay

We are delighted to announce that Yupeng Wu (The Courtauld Institute of Art) is the winner of the Association for Art History’s 2022 Postgraduate Dissertation Prize for their essay, ‘Timely Anachronism/Untimely Meditations: Chen Danqing’s Still Life Series 1997-2014’.

Many congratulations to Yupeng, who was awarded the prize at the recent AAH Annual Conference. Read her essay abstract below.

Shortlisted runners up

Polly Harknett  (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London) for the essay ‘Searching for Nasi Nuramah: a critical analysis and fabulation of jewellery making and exhibiting by women in Birmingham in 1978’.

Clelia Rebecchi (University of Cambridge) for the essay ‘Recovering the Feminine Divine: Reconsidering the Politics of Spirituality in the work of Cheri Gaulke’.

Many congratulations to Polly and Clelia!

Prize winning abstract

Delicate strokes of oil paint imitate the creases of mountains and swirls of vegetation, a muted colour palette suggests faded emotions, and two unravelled scrolls ripple out into both the past and the future: contemporary Chinese-American artist Chen Danqing juxtaposes two Ming Dynasty “mountain and water” (shanshui) paintings on the same canvas, presenting us with a riddle of time. This dissertation considers Chen’s Still Life series (1997-2014), a group of oil paintings that juxtapose catalogues of Chinese, Japanese, and Western masterpieces. An analysis of the meaning of these juxtapositions in Chen’s oeuvre is the catalyst for this study, which will expand to consider the late
nineteenth-century genre of bapo (“eight broken”) paintings, Western trompe-l’oeil, and both manual and mechanical practices of reproduction. By tracing their influences back to Chinese antiquarian traditions, examining manual and mechanical reproduction practices, and positioning them within the theoretical framework of anachronism, this study asserts that time is of the utmost importance in Chen’s paintings. Through engaging with critical interlocutors like Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Rancière, and Georges Didi-Huberman, this dissertation raises questions of anachronism and practices of art history— including contemporary criticism and its biases— and the relationship of trauma and loss to the objects of depiction. I claim that Chen’s works are not about the East/West, Us/Them binaries but about a rupture of time and space enabled by mechanical reproduction. Additionally, this study also provides an overview of the entanglements of Chinese and Western modern art history and the significance of the book and language to conceptualist works produced in China in the 1980s and later.

Assessment and Nominations

The Dissertation Prize is assessed by our Doctoral and Early Career Research (DECR) committee. Many thanks to those on the committee, lead by Cátia Rodrigues, who read and shortlisted this year’s submissions. The quality and originality of this year’s postgraduate essays has been extremely high. Many thanks to all who submitted nominations.

Read more about our 2022 Undergraduate Dissertation Prize winner and shortlist.

Image credit: Chen Danqing’s Still Life Series 1997-2014

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