Tuesday, June 6, 2017
With a certain significant date earlier this week and a new exhibition just opened at Sydney's Art Atrium gallery, it seemed timely to re-post my profile and video interview with Chinese/Australian artist Guo Jian, published in The Art Life just before I went to China in April. He is brave, resolute, astonishingly outspoken, and continues to make interesting work and push the boundaries of practice:
Guo Jian in Conversation with White Rabbit from White Rabbit Collection on Vimeo
Guo Jian had returned to China in 2005 and he was profoundly shocked by what he found— the rush to modernisation left so much destruction in its wake as traditional architecture in Beijing was replaced by eight-lane roads and tower blocks, and whole neighbourhoods were demolished....
Read the rest of the article.HERE
Note that all photographs were provided by the artist and are reproduced with his permission.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
|A group of young photographers shoot the work of Liang Shaoji at ShanghART, photo:LG|
|Lu Yang, Uterus Man installation, K11 Art Mall, Shanghai 2017|
A classic China moment: I wanted to see a curated group show at a certain very high-profile commercial gallery. It was a Saturday afternoon, and it should have been open. Arriving at the address, I found the door mysteriously locked. A bored guard, dozing over his jar of tea, got up and opened the door, and realised I was in the middle of a fashion shoot, with the paintings as backdrops. The guard assumed that any strange foreigner arriving at the door (no matter my less than fashionista appearance) must somehow be connected. The models, photographers, lighting technicians, make-up artists, hairdressers and runners completely ignored me, so I stayed tolook at the paintings by the light from my mobile phone.
|My inadvertent participation in a fashion shoot - as a witness|
|Tiny wooden stools like those that Song Dong and his friends sat on as children to watch movies shown in the Beijing hutongs - but here they are arranged behind the screen not in front of it.|
|Another iteration of ''Eating the City" - I overheard a boy strongly (and wisely) advise his girlfriend not to eat the stale cake|
He Xiangyu, 'Turtle, Lion and Bear' at Qiao Space was a disconcerting and very moving installation of 25 screens in a darkened space, featuring people in the act of yawning. It's infectious - you cannot not respond with your own yawns - the link between artist, artwork and viewer is complete. There was something quite magical about this sense of shared humanity.
|Student photographers engage with Liang Shaoji's work at ShanghART|
|Chen Yujun, installation view at Bank/Mabscociety|
|Chen Yujun, collage, detail, at Bank/Mabsociety|
Lu Yang, breaker of taboos and too cool for school, is always fabulous, and 'Delusional Mandala' in an exhibition of young new media artists 'Three Rooms' at Chronus Art Centre did not disappoint. I am rarely willing to stand in uncomfortable, cold gallery spaces on hard floors and watch long artist videos, but I watched this one twice, all the way through. Here's a snippet to tantalise, with commentary, from M Woods Museum in Beijing:
Yin Xiuzhen, Xu Bing, Hong Hao, Chen Yujun and a group of interesting artists in 'Collage: The Cards Players' (sic) at the Shanghai Gallery of Art, provided some strange and unexpected juxtapositions. I was delighted to see another iteration of Xu Bing's 'Background Story' series, where apparent traditional Chinese landscapes are created,not with ink and brush, but from rubbish and debris attached to a backlit screen.
|Xu Bing, Background Story, the front and the back|
|Yin Xiuzhen's rockets - or missiles - parodying the kitsch Pearl Orient TV Tower, all made of old clothing and textiles|
|Song Dong, "I Don't Know the Mandate of Heaven"|
After this disappointment, I entered a dimly lit upstairs space to be immersed in the meditative abstract paintings of Zhao Li, in her first solo exhibition for many years. Floating shapes hover on soft grounds of grey, or vivid red and pink. Linear forms overlapping and coalescing suggesting the constant rhythms of the universe and the human body. Zhao is interested in Daoist thought, and the push and pull of yin/yang binaries are evident in the juxtaposition of line and form in these compelling paintings. I was seduced - and calmed - post KAWS.
The exhibition text is, not unusually in China, full of emotive phrases like this: ''Reasonable romance and bold elegance can both be seen in her works.'' I may be obtuse, but I have no idea what reasonable romance is. But these paintings are absolutely, stunningly, beautiful. Painting in China is alive and well, and if April's crop of exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai are any indication, it is holding its own amongst the new media, photography, augmented/virtual reality, sculpture and installation.
A ratio of nine strong exhibitions to one that was just silly and shallow - actually, that's not bad. And there's even a Chengyu, a four character idiom, that fits the situation: ''nine cows, one strand of hair''
Monday, May 22, 2017
|Chinese flag billows at the stern of our boat, heading towards Yangshuo, Photo:LG|
|Old? Or maybe ''old" architecture. But beautiful nonetheless|
|Conversation, April afternoon, Shanghai. Photo:LG|
|Shanghai juxtapositions, Photo:LG|
|Changle Lu, April. Photo:LG|
|Song Dong exhibition 'I Don't Know the Mandate of Heaven', installation view, Rockbund Museum|
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Shanghai-based painter Lu Xinjian has invented his own visual language with which he represents his experiences of urban life. In several interviews for the White Rabbit Collection since 2015 in Shanghai and in Sydney (Judith Neilson was one of the first collectors to see his early 'City DNA' paintings in Beijing, in 2011), he talked with me about his early life as a boy in rural China, and his surprising metamorphosis into a highly successful contemporary artist on the global stage.
|Lu Xinjian and a painting in his 'City Stream' series, image courtesy the artist|
Lu Xinjian’s early life seemed an unlikely background from which a successful artist might emerge. Born in 1977 into a poor farming family in a rural village in Jiangsu Province, by his own account his childhood was spent running wild, looking after ducks and chickens. After school he studied computer graphics and graphic design, despite his love of painting, knowing that a poor boy making his way in the world needed a more secure income than that of an emerging artist.
|Lu Xinjian with his mother, image courtesy the artist|
|Lu Xinjian in the studio, image courtesy the artist|
|Lu Xinjian, City DNA – Beijing, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 400 cm, image courtesy White Rabbit Collection|
TO read more in 'The Art Life' , click HERE
And here is the video interview with Lu Xinjian
Lu Xinjian in Conversation with White Rabbit from White Rabbit Collection on Vimeo.
Shanghai-based painter Lu Xinjian discusses his 'City DNA' series, his interest in Mondrian and Dutch design, and how a boy from a poor rural farming family became a successful contemporary artist
Saturday, May 6, 2017
|Guozijian Street Beijing, photo LG|
|Reflected blossoms, near Nanluoguxiang, Beijing, photo: LG|
|Motor-cycle taxi, Dashilar, Photo: LG|
|Old shool beng beng taxi, Photo L|
|Hutong, Dashilar, photo: LG|
|Washing drying in the lanes, Beijing, April 2017, Photo: LG|
|Beijing rooftops through a hutong window, Photo: LG|
My top 5 Beijing highlights:
1. Qiu Anxiong, 'New Book of Mountains and Seas Part III' at Boers-Li Gallery - immersive, completely extraordinary. Qiu has created a dystopic universe with just enough connections to the present-day to make it thoroughly terrifying. So immersive that I sat through the entire video twice. Part II was a central element of White Rabbit's 2016 exhibition, 'Vile Bodies'. Here Qiu talks about his work for the exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum in 2013: http://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/video/collections/asian/qiu-anxiong-ink-art
2. Wang Yuping at Tang Contemporary - a remarkable painter whose work I had not seen before. His series of paintings of the intersection near Jingshan Park is so characteristically Beijing that it would make you weep with nostalgia. And how lovely to discover that he taught my good friend Gao Ping at CAFA, and is a beloved professor. The exhibition 'Jingshan Hill' is divorced from current fashion and theoretical discourse and is all the better for it.
3. Tai Xiangzhou at Ink Studio - a stunning exhibition called 'Speculative Cosmologies' - the curator says: Working in the literati mode, Tai spent years copying and mastering classical compositions and brushwork. He focuses on the landscapes of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), considered a Chinese golden age for both pictorial and astral arts. Speculative Cosmologies features select examples of Tai’s classicizing style, including Mountain of Heaven, a virtuosic rendition of a Song monumental landscape as a screen—a format charged with cosmological significance; Cosmic Symphonies, an elaboration of a celebrated 13th-century album depicting different aspects of water; and Microcosm-Macrocosm, a primordial landscape without organic life generated from a miniature scholar’s rock. Lovingly and intimately antiquarian, these paintings also ask, speculatively and counterfactually, what a Song landscape would be if it encompassed the vastly expanded scope of contemporary knowledge and experience. http://www.inkstudio.com.cn/exhibitions/24/overview/
4. Liu Di at Pekin Fine Arts - new directions in the work of this interesting artist, whose digital works of large-bottomed animals plonked in the courtyards of Beijing apartments have been shown at White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney. http://pekinfinearts.com/en/exhibition/liu-di-break-with-convention/
5. An exhibition of new directions in the work of young artists, both Chinese and international, at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) - still with a cloud hanging over its future and no buyer in sight - presented tiny enclosed spaces with lots of video.Highlights here were the futuristic imaginings of Cui Jie - and in China they're not much of a stretch - and a stunning, ambiguous installation by Ma Jianfeng. Here's an interesting article featuring Cui Jie - and Lu Yang who I will write about in a later post: Where Next? Imagining the Dawn of the Chinese Century
Apart from that, the skies were blue and clear, my wanderings in the remaining hutongs were a delight (even though I still cannot persuade my husband to love Beijing), you can now get excellent coffee all over the city, and it was great to be back in a place that I have come to love like a second home. I visited the studios of Xiao Lu, Ma Yanling, Yu Hong and Bingyi, and spoke with Tao Aimin at Egg Gallery and Ink Studio in Caochangdi.
|With Xiao Lu and her exciting recent ink works in her studio, Beijing, April 2017|
Saturday, April 29, 2017
|West Lake, Hangzhou, Photograph LG|
In my restless attempts at sleep this week, half awake and half dreaming, scenes and encounters from my last three weeks in China have been re-enacted like snippets of film. Powerful images and compelling experiences, but I've been finding it hard to render them in words for some reason. I'm going to write a separate post about the art I've seen - and it was wonderful - and the artists I've met. This first piece post-China is an attempt to reconcile my conflicted feelings about this most recent trip. There are two things that I keep coming back to, that represent for me the complexity and contradictions of contemporary China, with all its excitement and adrenaline, beauty and astonishing inventiveness, resilience and pragmatism, and also its very deep unhealed scars.
The first thing is purely joyful: it's the delight I always experience in Chinese public parks and gardens, in every city I've been to. All of life takes place there, and every age group and almost every demographic is present. From the ubiquitous - and often much-maligned - dancing 'aunties' (and, really, how snobbish, sexist and ageist is much of the media attention focused on them!) to the ballroom dancers, kite-flyers, water calligraphers, card players, opera singers, tai ji quan practitioners, old men with caged birds, old ladies in wheel chairs, massed choirs, fan dancers, and doting grandparents with little children. There are pleasure boats on the lakes and the weirdly grotesque ride-on toys that are uniquely Chinese.
|Water calligrapher, West Lake, Hangzhou, photo LG|
|Singers in Jingshan Park, Beijing, photo LG|
|Hangzhou waltzing, Photo: LG|
|Hangzhou Waltzing, Photo: LG|
I'd gone to Guilin for a weekend, having always wanted to see the dramatic karst landscape that featured in so much Chinese painting, and to travel along the Li River. The landscape is certainly beautiful, but it would have been better to go twenty years ago, before mass tourism descended. I was prepared for this to some extent, but the reality was a bit of a shock; the hotel was a hideous processing factory for tour groups from far provinces, and I got food poisoning - for the first time ever in China. By the time I was sitting queasily at the airport I was quite keen to leave Guilin behind. Suddenly there was a commotion, and an uneasy stirring of the people all around me; I looked up to see three figures stumble past, surrounded by men in dark glasses and leather jackets. They were bent forward, shuffling, and it took me a moment to realise that they were blindfolded, their hands cuffed behind them. I was profoundly shocked, a feeling compounded by the realisation that their blindfolds were white surgical masks intended to be worn over nose and mouth, and by the casual brutality of the police who shoved them roughly through the airport. They were bent at the waist in attitudes of supplication reminiscent of Cultural Revolution photographs. I cannot get this image out of my mind.
I have almost deleted my description of the Guilin Airport incident several times now. It is obviously so out of keeping with the tone of this blog, which for years has recounted my experiences in China - the joyful, the amusing, the bewildering and the confusing nature of the encounters of just another laowai. One of my aims has always been to counter the schematically over-simplified view of China held by people who have never been there - and some who have - focused on the reporting of corruption and human rights abuses in the western press. I wanted to show that the reality of a vast country of 1.4 billion is far more complex than what we see in the media, and give a sense of the ordinariness of daily life. But what I saw that day was far from ordinary, and this brings me back once again to art. It is artists who draw our attention, in ways both subtle and profound, to dangerous truths, to the beauty, terror and absurdity of life. It is up to us to pay attention.
|From Guilin to Yangshuo on the Li Rover, Photo LG|