Traditional Scroll Mounting
SCROLL MOUNTING :
Paintings on rice paper can be mounted onto silk scrolls using either the wet mount method or dry mount method.
Wet mounting is all done by hand the traditional way. It dates back to the Han dynasty (Around 200 B.C.). It is a dying art which requires superb skills, years of experience. Dry mounting is the shortcut and cheap way which uses silicon adhesive and heat.
Differences between wet and dry mounting:
Traditional wet mounting method is all done by hand and uses flour paste as the glue. It embodies the spirit of Chinese art, and requires superb workmanship. On the other hand, dry mounting uses silicon paper as the adhesive and uses either a mounting machine or a hot iron during the process.
Wet mounted paintings can be remounted in the future, but not so with dry mounted artwork. Wet mount is also more environmentally friend than dry mount.
Very often folds and creases appear in dry mounted scrolls due to carelessness or machine malfunction, and these errors cannot be corrected and the paintings are thus ruined.
All famous masters’ works and expensive paintings are wet mounted.
The most common forms are vertical wall scroll and horizontal wall scroll. Vertical scrolls are more convenient for hanging, but the horizontal scrolls are more suitable for sumi-e with a western feel.
There are different hanging scroll styles:
- 一色裱, one color mount
- 二色裱, two color mount
- 三色裱, three color mount
- 宣和裱 or 宋式裱,, Xuanhe style/ Song style
- 中堂裱, large hall painting style
The picture below shows the three colour mount (三色裱)
The styles below are Xuanhe style/ Sung style done with decorative ribbons known as wind ribbons 風帶 or scare swallows 驚燕. The ribbons used to be free flowing in the Sung Dynasty (between 960 and 1279), and the purpose was to scare the swallows from resting at the top of the painting and soiling it.
The style has later evolved to fixed ribbons for decorative purposes as shown below. The one on the right is Xuah He style wit the wind ribbons.
Making the Glue Paste for Scroll Mounting
Several years ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to learn traditional wet mounting from an old master who immigrated from China to Canada. I wanted to document it as it is a dying art. It is so time consuming and difficult that I do not mount my own paintings. Also, as a mounting novice, I don’t want to ruin my own paintings : )
Here are some photos of just the first process: making the glue paste:
- Mix flour with water
2. Remove the gluten 去麵筋
( after removing the gluten, the liquid mixture will be used for glue making. In the meantime, the gluten can be used for Chinese vegetarian dishes. Yes! Can you believe it? Now that people are eating gluten free, while many Chinese vegan dishes are made with pure gluten! )
3. Use sieve to filter at least twice
4. Let the mixture air dry
After the mixture has completely dried and caked, it can be stored, and then for each use, add boiling water to make it into a glue paste.
The different stages of traditional wet mounting of silk scrolls:
What’s described above is only step 1 and the easiest. Sorry I don’t have time to explain in detail those stages which are:
Steaming the Artwork
One more thing you should know : before mounting, the painting or calligraphy on rice paper needs to be steamed in high heat for about 15 minutes to prevent the ink from running. All artwork that has been done within the past 6 months will need to be steamed. You can skip this process for artwork older than 6 months.
I have been getting enquiries from different countries about traditional scroll mounters that I can recommend. There are few wet scroll mounters now, and most that you find online and in China are done by machine, with silicone dry mounting. I am based in Toronto, so I cannot really provide any, but I have found these on the internet if the info is helpful to you:
- Master Tsang in Hong Kong – he has been mounting and restoring multi million dollar Chinese paintings for many years
- Another one is Taiwan
If you have a precious Chinese scroll painting that needs restoration, here is a link I found online:http://www.asianartrestoration.com/