Q & A with Roger Carter

Q & A with Roger Carter
The Arts of China
5 April 2016

On 16 April, Humble House Gallery Director Roger Carter will visit the Library to discuss the evolution of Chinese furniture, as part of our Arts of China weekend.

Furniture is one of the crafts that reflects the traditional Chinese lifestyle, and Roger will explore major forms and styles, revealing the underlying symbolism essential to understanding and appreciating the tastes and aspirations of the people who used the furniture on a daily basis.

We caught up with Roger ahead of his appearance to ask a few questions about his interests.

What sparked your interest in Chinese furniture?

I have been involved with Chinese culture my entire adult life. My first career was practising Chinese medicine. Later, I joined the Department of Immigration and was posted to Beijing. That was where my passion for the furniture started. My wife Weilian and I went out almost every weekend looking at pieces, talking to collectors and dealers and, of course, buying. We respected the craftsmanship as well as the beauty of the furniture. We eventually established a small workshop aimed at the conservation and restoration of furniture and opened a business in Canberra. We have moved a couple of times as we have grown . Now we have a large gallery and exhibition space in Fyshwick.

Do your collections focus on a particular period or style?

Not especially. We like to have as wide a range as possible from different regions of China. The period is eighteenth to early twentieth century furniture.

Do you have a favourite period or style of Chinese furniture, or a favourite piece in your gallery at the moment?

Chinese chair

Courtesy Roger Carter.

Simpler, so-called Ming style is appreciated for its elegance. On the other hand, more decorative pieces (Qing style) often have an underlying story to tell with their decorative motifs.

A favourite piece at the moment is a cabinet that has two lines of calligraphy that I tracked down to a poem written by a Tang dynasty poet. But is it? Come along to the talk for more.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked about your line of work?

Does anyone actually buy this stuff?

Verbal answer: Yes, we have had a modestly successful business for nearly 20 years.

Cloud answer: No, it’s a tax write-off, I am independently super rich.

What are you reading right now?

Chinese Furniture by Karen Mazurkewich. Recommended if you want just one book on Chinese furniture. Also reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s a book about writing and related to a course I am doing.

Chinese cabinet

Courtesy Roger Carter.

What three titles should always be on the shelves of any self-respecting book shop?

Bookshops are doing it tough. The three most popular selling books for that week.

Who is your favourite literary hero or heroine?

No-one in particular, but I have great respect for translators. The current exhibition has a first edition copy of Hong lou meng [Dream of the Red Chamber, or The Story of the Stone] and the five volume translation by David Hawkes and John Minford is a wonderful read.

What do you love about libraries?

Of course the books, but the staff at libraries are just wonderful with their knowledge and patience. The NLA in particular has an amazing Asian collection, I just wish I could get there more often.