Canadian, b. 1930
T'ao T'ieh, 1994
40.3 x 42.5 x 29.8 cm
Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Naylor, funds administered by The Winnipeg Foundation and with funds from the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program/Oeuvre achetée avec l’aide du programme d’aide aux acquisitions du Conseil des Arts du Canada
This impressive sculptural work has at its core the vessel format: a covered jar. Quebec artist Maurice Savoie enjoys the juxtaposition of mythological beasts with everyday situations, a recurring theme appearing in his work. The origins of the t’ao t’ieh (taotie) motif date back to ancient Chinese bronzes when designs of fantastic beasts wrapped the bodies of these vessels. Savoie takes inspiration from a Chinese legend described in Jorges Luis Borges’ novel Le livre des êtres imaginaires, that associates the t’ao t’ieh with gluttony. However, Savoie’s vision moves away from the mythic representation of this creature. He chooses, instead, to represent it as a two-headed, six-legged dog that eats constantly. The evidence of its insatiable appetite is littered around the vessel: bones stripped of all flesh, a pile of which forms the finial on the vessel’s lid.