HEAVEN OR HELL: IMAGES OF CHINESE BUDDHIST And DAOIST DEITIES AND IMMORTALS at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) to May 1. $18, stu/srs $15, Friday after 4:30 pm $5. 416-586-8000. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In these East-Asian-inspired, lulu lemon-clad times, we tend to shop around for religious concepts, meditation classes and spiritual journeys, but few really know the roots of Buddhist and Daoist religious art.
The ROM's Heaven Or Hell exhibit gets down to the nitty-gritty, showcasing Chinese paintings and prints from the 10th through the 20th century. Sound stale? Far from it, if you ask me. The beautifully crafted scenes in more than 20 religious paintings and prints carry you back in time to different periods in Chinese history.
Hell is depicted in elaborate representations of torment and agony presided over by judging deities, images guaranteed to inspire those with ambitions to make anime or slasher films.
In contrast to these dire works, heaven is as soothing as a warm spring. In Isle Of The Blessed, a painted hand scroll from the late 13th century, the journey to heaven is shown as a voyage to an elusive divine island.
As the boat nears its destination, the waves pound harder against its bow. Heaven is coming closer.
Perhaps you'll find yourself enthralled by this piece, studying it as people before you have done for hundreds of years. If you have 45 minutes to spare in your day planner and room for reflection in your mind, you'll benefit from Heaven Or Hell.