Chinese Contemporary Art on Show (UK): April/May 2015

It’s been a while since I did a blog post of this kind. Time to continue my series of posts on exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art on show in the UK. As you can see from this list (that also includes a little Asian art too, not just from the broader contexts of China), there is a lot to see and all over the country. If I’ve missed any, let me know…or if you want to find out more, get in contact. Some of these events are happening very, very SOON, so get them marked in your diary to go…especially to see Cai and JJ run a marathon this Sunday in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern…go and run with them!

  1. Ai Weiwei – Blenheim Palace
    1 October – 26 April 2015.This autumn, Blenheim Palace sees the launch of the new Blenheim Art Foundation, which brings an exciting new programme of contemporary art by leading international artists to the Palace. Opening on 1st October, celebrated Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s largest UK exhibition launches the foundation in ‘Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace’, with more than 50 new and iconic artworks on display throughout the palace and its grounds.

    Ai Weiwei - Copy.5ca1d929d97178ab9b00a2fdb8d452df

  2. ‘Artists’ Marathon’ by Cai and JJ – Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London
    Sunday 26 April 2015, 2pm.The Artists’ Marathon is designed to generate and harness energy as a public art event.  Using the marathon as a form within the physical structure of a well-known art institution, the Artists’ Marathon involves mental and physical stamina as a communal event that requires participation as a unifying experience welcoming anyone to join in.  Taking place in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern every year, artists are encouraged to take part in the project, held in parallel with the major international event of the London Marathon.

    Cai and JJ artists marathon

  3. Xu Bing – CRASSH, Cambridge
    Events running 27 – 30 April 2015, see website for details.The CRASSH Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chinese Studies, Xu Bing (Former President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing),  will give  two public lectures (Lecture 1: Monday 27 April The Reactivation of Tradition and Lecture 2: Wednesday 29 April The Energy of Reality and the Creativity of Art) and participate in a concluding symposium (Symposium: Thursday 30 April Chinese Tradition/Chinese Reality). He will also attend a talk and reception at the Fitzwilliam Museum (Talk and Reception: Tuesday 28 April Xu Bing at the Fitzwilliam Museum) to celebrate his visit to Cambridge. More information about this first lecture  will be posted shortly.

  4. ‘Do-It-Yourself’ by Song-Ming Ang – Camden Arts Centre, London
    Events running 22 – 26 April 2015, see Facebook event for details.A series of events which continue to unpick residency artist Song-Ming Ang’s interests in music and its relationship to the amateur. Alongside screenings, workshops, performances and talks, Ang will present Music Manuscript, an ongoing series of works using music manuscript paper as a basis for creating visual compositions, and a selection of his films.

    Song Ming-Ang Do-It-Yourself

  5. 一纸素笺 A piece of paper’ curated by Li Yangqing – online/St. Mary Le Wigford Church, Lincoln
    10 – 16 May 2015.一纸素笺 is an exhibition that will feature a wide range of creative responses to paper from invited artists, students, friends, teachers, children from a range of backgrounds, cultures and ages. Each person will start with the same type of paper. Website for the project will be live soon –

    a piece of paper

  6. ‘Ahead of the Curve’ at Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
    14 March – 31 May 2015. I recently blogged about this exhibition – read about the show here.This exciting and unique touring exhibition showcases contemporary ceramics and glass from emerging and established Chinese artists. It will include striking new work and demonstrate current trends and practices from Jingdezhen and Shanghai. This will be the last chance to see this exhibition in the UK.

    'Spring Up Series No. 9' (2012) © Zhang Jingjing
    ‘Spring Up Series No. 9’ (2012) © Zhang Jingjing
  7. ‘The Chinese Photobook’ – The Photographers’ Gallery, London
    17 April – 5 July 2015.The Chinese Photobook reveals the richness and diversity of China’s largely unexplored history of photobook publishing. Spanning from 1900 to 2014, the exhibition includes key titles by established and emerging Chinese artists. The exhibition includes books published by early colonial powers in China, including France, England, and Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War, as well as a selection of books produced during the Cultural Revolution, among many others. Many of the publications on display are unknown or rarely seen outside of China and offer a unique insight into the country’s complex cultural history from the twentieth century onwards. Reflecting an extraordinary breadth of research and study, by a team of scholars and historians, including Gu Zheng, Stephanie H. Tung, Raymond Lum, and Gerry Badger, the books are loosely grouped under six key historical sections.

    Chinese Photo Book Photographers Gallery

  8. ‘Made in China’, a Doug Fishbone project – Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
    10 February 2015 – 26 July 2015.Can you tell the difference between an Old Master painting and a contemporary replica? Working with conceptual artist Doug Fishbone we are encouraging you to take a closer look at our Permanent Collection. One of our works has been replaced by a replica painting sourced from an artists’ workshop in China and hung in the frame belonging to the original. For three months the identity of the work will remain concealed. Test your discerning eye and tell us which painting you think it is. Many Old Master painters, from Titian to Rubens, encouraged the copying of their work either in their workshops by apprentices or by independent copyists. There are several examples in Dulwich’s collection including workshop paintings such as Venus and Adonis and copies painted from the original by artists visiting the Gallery such as Constable’s copy of Ruisdael’s Windmills. Today, famous paintings are being reproduced in the millions with China dominating this export market. For three months (10 February – 26 April) you are invited to find the replicated painting, which hangs in place of the original in the permanent display of 270 works. Winning answers will be entered into a draw to win one of five print-on-demand reproductions of chosen works in the Gallery’s collection. The answer will be revealed on 28 April when original and replica will hang side by side. Come and compare the two. Co-curated by conceptual artist Doug Fishbone and Dr Xavier Bray, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at the Gallery.

  9. Lee Ufan – Lisson Gallery, London
    25 March – 9 May 2015.This exhibition brings together a body of new work by Lee Ufan, famed as a founding member of the Japanese Mono-ha and Korean Dansaekhwa groups of the late 1960s and early ’70s – both important modern and parallel art movements which have only relatively recently been feted by major shows in the West. Although his practice is widely regarded as minimalist, Lee believes in utilising an economy of gesture or representation in search of the maximum possible effect or resonance. His most recent series of Dialogue paintings and watercolours are economically composed of singular sweeps of paint, each built up over an extended period of time through an accretion of smaller strokes. The brush gradually unloads, the mark lightening towards immateriality as he drags it across the surface of the canvas or paper, each repetition being ritualistically controlled by Lee’s held breath. The incorporation of strong colours – blue, red or an earthy green – to the artist’s traditional grey palette, marks a decisive shift away from the intangibility of grisaille towards elements or references in the real world, perhaps harking back to an early series of fluorescent spray-painted works by Lee from 1968, entitled Landscape. The four large-scale paintings at Lisson Gallery combine together to form a chapel-like environment within the main atrium, surrounding the viewer with gestures that require time and concentration to fully appreciate.

    Lee Ufan Lisson Gallery

  10. ‘The Man with the Film Projector’ by Kao Chung-li – Peltz Gallery, Birkbeck School of Arts, London
    23 April – 5 May 2015.‘The Man with the Film Projector’, the first UK solo exhibition by Taiwan artist Kao Chung-li, will be presented at the Peltz Gallery from 23rd April to 5th May 2015. There will also be an exclusive screening and panel discussion at LUX on 14 May. Kao Chung-li is one of most important artists working in Taiwan today, and his practice combines filmmaking, painting, photography, sculpture and installation. Kao developed his hybrid artistic language both through his artistic practice and his everyday life. By making 8-mm home-movies in his spare time, Kao documented his family life as well as an array of unusual and eccentric sub-cultural activities. These recordings all became source material for his experimental film creations; his art reflects his everyday life, but also presents Taiwan’s cultural or media history. The exhibition gathers Kao’s most significant works including My Mentor, Chen Yingzhen (2010) and Slideshow Cinema 1: Taste of Human Flesh (2010–12), which investigate the relationship between national history and personal biography. The exhibition also presents early material by Kao including his experimental film That Photograph (1984).

    Kao Chung-li

  11. ‘New Man’ by Liu Ding – MOT International, London
    10 April – 23 May 2015.Continually interested in the boundaries between artistic, social and political practices, Liu Ding’s varied output includes: roundtable discussions and interviews, published theoretical texts, performances, lectures, curatorial projects, exhibitions and a commercial store, Liu Ding’s Store. In addition to employing these differing channels, Liu Ding draws on many sources and collaborators that shape his practice and its reception, from hired traditional painters to professional actors. His interest in broadening perspectives of history beyond national identity lends itself to discussions of global commonality and shared visual, physical or psychological experiences. Liu Ding’s central focus in the exhibition is the notion of the ‘New Man’. This term appeared frequently in the Communist government’s rhetoric and propaganda to enforce a vision of revolution, one of re-configured traditions and cultures that generate new aesthetics and new horizons. In terms of the individual, the figure of the ‘New Man’ suggests a wiliness to adapt oneself to a new ideological context. Combining the historical with the contemporary, the artist revisits the various stages of artistic reforms and formation as initiated by the Communist government since coming into power in the 1940s. He brings to the fore the construction of history and its relationship with contemporary art and subjectivity.

  12. Chinese Visual Festival 2015 – Various sites across London
    7 – 22 May 2015 – see website for full schedule.Chinese Visual Festival (CVF) is proud to announce its 2015 program, which runs from May 7th – 22nd at King’s College London, with events also being held at the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank, Bertha DocHouse and Chelsea College of Arts.  For its fifth edition, the festival is thrilled to welcome to London some of the most exciting directors currently working in Chinese language cinema, showcasing documentary, fiction and experimental video art from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and beyond. Highlights include:
    • Guest artists Zhang Peili, the father of Chinese Video Art, Wu Xiaohai and Rao Yifan
    • Guest directors Gu Tao, Singing Chen, Yee Chih-Yen, Chiayun Wu, Shen Xin
    • More than 40 cutting-edge films, including world and UK premieres
    • Vision Taiwan strand, featuring the best in independent cinema from Taiwan
    • Panel discussions and sessions on queer cinema, Hong Kong Urban Diary and more
    • UK tour, including Newcastle, Nottingham and Sussex Universities

    Chinese Visual Festival

  13. Social Behaviours  众重行事’ by Li Binyuan – Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CFCCA), Manchester
    10 April – 31 May 2015.Li Binyuan is a young artist living, working and disturbing Beijing’s everyday life with impromptu artistic interventions. He is challenging political and social restrictions, using his body as the medium of this sensuous production. Following his experimental paradigms of behavior art CFCCA will attempt to re-create a model of Social Behaviours, inviting our audience to actively participate to an interactive exploratory engagement with his artworks. Social Behaviours will be celebrating his performances exhibiting some of the video recordings that comprise part of his practice. The preview event will include a live discussion on some of the issues and themes surrounding Li Binyuan’s work. Particularly the role of film and documentation in live art, what it means to disrupt social behaviours through performance and the role of the audience. There will also be an opportunity to become part of Li Binyuan’s art by entering a raffle to be documented receiving a prolonged hug from the artist at his live performance event on Thursday 14 May 2015.

    Li Binyuan

  14. Wen Wu – Riflemaker, London
    16 April – 6 May 2015.Wu’s paintings counter the commercialisation of art production in today’s China, the sole aim of her canvases being aesthetic – primarily the representation of beauty. Her work breaks with the politically-orientated Social Realist style, popular from 1950-1970, toward a more poetic or ‘literary’ neo-realism taking its cue from Western sources, in her case everything from 19C French plein air romanticism through the English Pre-Raphaelites and the Victorian painters to the pre-WWII School of Paris. In Chinese language systems, symbols or ‘characters’ depict the often monosyllabic words as pictograms or ideograms. Wen Wu takes the idea to its literal conclusion by using the physical shapes of these ‘syllables’ to present them as human figures. Two hardcover books placed side by side become ‘Adam & Eve’, a woman’s body set within a paper fan is ‘The Original Force of Creation’. A young girl’s hand emerging from a folded edition becomes ‘My Roving Desires’. Each small painting is figurative though the spirit of the work appears abstract. Pools of colour almost consume the subject within a world of shadows. Ochre and cerise fill both background and foreground while the execution of the image, the instinctive brushstrokes, the body shapes and also the body language of the models within these tabletop objects have an indefinable nostalgic quality.

  15. ‘No Glass Twice as Big as It Needs to Be’ by Christopher Doyle – Rossi & Rossi Gallery, London
    17 April – 15 May 2015.

    No Glass Twice as Big as It Needs to Be includes a range of works, from humorous collages that deconstruct familiar historical and religious imagery to images of delicate pastel-hued flowers covered with splatters of paint and ink. For Doyle, the process of creating collages is therapeutic; it allows him to re-energise after long days of filming. The artist sees the resulting body of intimately personal works as products of his intuition. According to Doyle, No Glass is a celebration of the pictorial surface through the restrictions imposed upon it by its physical frames. This is most evident in the series Issue, which pairs a collage with a video work, highlighting the different approaches to imagery with which Doyle deals when producing art and film. Each of the twelve collages is presented as floating—suspended from the ceiling and effectively frameless, instead of being sandwiched between clear pieces of Perspex—while the same image is slowly revealed on the accompanying monitor, as billowing, cloudlike forms emerge from the edges of the screen. Also accompanying the exhibition is just like you and me (2015), a video in which Doyle is interviewed by his alter ego Du Ke Feng (杜可風, the artist’s Chinese name, meaning ‘like the wind’). Doyle and Du have a give-and-take relationship: free-minded Doyle creates films and art out of pleasure; in contrast, reason-based Du requires the kind of logical rhetoric that Doyle is uncomfortable to afford. So who creates which work of art? Who creates which film?

    Christopher Doyle Manifest Destiny

  16. ‘Paracosm’ by Faiza Butt – New Art Exchange, Nottingham
    24 April – 28 June 2015.The exhibition explores her practice over two decades and comprises of a rich collection ranging from drawings to digital prints, light works and sculptural installation. Butt was born in Lahore, Pakistan. The stimulus for her practice is wide ranging, however she cites growing up in the shifting politics of 1980s Pakistan and observing the impact of 9/11 on the young Pakistan diaspora in Britain, as major influences on her work. ‘Artists have a purpose in society. You do not make art to make anyone comfortable or to amuse people. Art is a language, a code through which you hope to make a difference’ – Faiza Butt. Her artworks are based on pictures scavenged from the media and advertising. In a bid to connect with the widest audience, and in response to the snobbery towards beauty in contemporary art, Butt deploys candy-shop colours and familiar forms to capture the spectator’s interest before connecting them with globally important questions.

    Faiza Butt

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