Chinese Contemporary Art on Show (UK): Summer 2015

Time for another blog post on exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art on show in the UK. As always, there is a lot to see across the country. I’ve started to include exhibitions examining broader contexts of Asian contemporary art too, not just from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 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 SOON, so get them marked in your diary to go, specifically ‘CCVA presents: Shoulders of Giant by Shen Xin on 29 July at Senate House in London’ (an event I’m helping to run through my work at the CCVA)…and the opening of ‘WASTELANDS 荒原’ on 16 July at Ovada Gallery in Oxford (number one on the list). Enjoy and experience…

  1. ‘WASTELANDS 荒原’ – Ovada Gallery, Oxford
    17 July – 9 August 2015. Preview: Thursday 16 July, 6pm – 9pm
    Featuring Ai Weiwei, Cai Yuan, Cao Fei, HMFF, Anthony Key, Sun Haili, Sun Yi and Wessieling. ‘Wastelands’ is a contemporary Chinese art exhibition of installation, painting, sculpture and film presenting the works of eight artists who all have links to China. The exhibition explores the idea of ‘waste’ as a result of consumption through different landscapes and materials. Ranging from the ‘aesthetic debris’ in the work of Cai Yuan’s cardboard paintings installation to Cao Fei’s film ‘Haze and Fog’, a surreal and abject portrait of an excessively self-consuming Beijing in the form of a zombie movie. Featuring established artists such as the hugely significant figure of Ai Weiwei alongside artists with long-standing practices in the UK, it engages in themes around issues of neo-liberal ideologies, consumption, development and economies of culture.

    Wastelands Ai Weiwei

  2. CCVA presents: ‘Shoulders of Giants’: a project initiated by Shen Xin 
    29 July 2015, 3.30pm – 6pm
    Senate Room, First Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU, UK Free tickets and more info:
    Download: Press Release – Shoulders of Giants
    Shoulders of Giants is a project initiated by Shen Xin. It appropriates and extends the model of a symposium through animation, performance and projection.  The invited speakers will animate creatures derived from Shan Hai Jing (Also known as The Classics of Mountains and Seas, C4th BC) as they speak, discuss and conduct Q&A. The event seeks to investigate the strategies that artists, theorists and critics employ to deal with mechanisms of power – such as oppression and censorship, surveillance and punishment, unemployment and estranged labour – that are inherent in daily politics; to highlight the many desires that are afloat where power multiplies, unfolds, fluctuates, and diminishes; to render visible the physical and psychological affects that they have. It will position theoretical and artistic practices as practice of action, and therefore looks at how the dispositions of each practitioner are appropriated in various modes in order to produce subjectivity, to communicate change and to form solidarity.

    shoulders of giants shen xin image

  3. ‘Made in China’, a Doug Fishbone project – Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
    10 February – 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.

  4. ‘The M+ Sigg Collection: Chinese art from the 1970s to now’ – The Whitworth, Manchester
    1 July – 20 September 2015
    The M+ Sigg Collection is an extraordinary exhibition drawn from an extraordinary collection, one put together by the Swiss collector Uli Sigg and now recognised as the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in the world. The collection will form the backbone of the new M+ museum for visual culture in Hong Kong (due to open to the public in 2019) and the exhibition here at the Whitworth, put together in collaboration with our curators and colleagues from the M+ Sigg Collection, will be its only UK showing. Spanning forty years and bringing together works by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Cao Fei and Zhang Peili, this is an exhibition that charts the emergence of contemporary art in China, from early subversive works and events on Tiananmen Square in 1989 to the vibrant art scene of today. Read my review here.

    M+ Sigg The Whitworth 7

  5. ‘Ai Weiwei’ – Royal Academy of Arts, London
    19 September – 13 December 2015
    Curated in collaboration with Ai Weiwei from his studio in Beijing, the RA will present some of his most important works from the time he returned to China from the US in 1993 right up to present day. Among new works created specifically for our galleries and courtyard will be a number of large-scale installations, as well as works showcasing everything from marble and steel to tea and glass. With typical boldness, the chosen works will explore a multitude of challenging themes, drawing on his own experience to comment on creative freedom, censorship and human rights, as well as examining contemporary Chinese art and society.

  6. ‘ICONS OF RHETORIC | 북한의 수사학 아이콘: Looking In, With a View to Looking Out’ – Bonington Gallery, Nottingham
    18 June – 10 July 2015
    A joint exhibition by photographer Chris Barrett and researcher Gianluca Spezza. Icons of Rhetoric seeks to explain and connect what North Korea shows to the world with what we, the western world, see of it. The project translates the official images that North Korea presents, reflecting our own stereotyped view of the country. It also develops a narrative that gives credit to the idea of reading North Korea through its own discourse, while holding a mirror up to our own preconceptions and methods of mass communication. Barrett’s images combined with Spezza’s writing give space to consider otherwise throwaway images through the concept of digitally appropriated images processed onto instant film. The collaboration produces silent sound bites manifested in a different approach to documenting the country ‘we’ call North Korea and ‘they’ call the DPRK.

    Icons of Rhetoric

  7. ‘Micro Micro Revolution | 微型小革命’ – CFCCA, Manchester
    3 July – 6 September 2015
    Associate Curator: Lu Pei-yi. Micro Micro Revolution aims to explore the power of art as a vehicle to address social change in Taiwan through three socially-engaged art projects: A Cultural Action at the Plum Tree Creek, Plant-Matter Needed and 500 Lemon Trees. These ongoing process-based, participative projects use art as a vehicle for addressing environmental issues, as a form of resistance, and as a platform for exchange. This exhibition will introduce visitors to environmental concerns in Taiwan such as land-use, pollution, and sustainability. The Micro Micro Revolution event programme will provide a platform for discussion around the key aspects of the exhibition.

    500-Lemon-Trees Micro Micro Revolution

  8. ‘CHINA NOW’ by Zhang Kai and He Jie – The Gulbenkian Gallery, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London
    17 – 27 July 2015
    Zhang Kai and He Jie’s works strongly reference Western and Eastern art history, finding inspiration from European historical events and the paintings of the old masters, while still keeping a recognisable Asian identity and subject matter, expressing their own feelings about modern life from a young Chinese person’s point of view.


  9. ‘NEW CHINA / NEW ART: Contemporary Video From Shanghai And Hangzhou’ – Lakeside Arts, Nottingham
    5 September – 1 November 2015
    Since the making of China’s first video artwork in Hangzhou in 1988, neighbouring metropolises Shanghai and Hangzhou have become major centres for the development of video art in China. Both cities have historically cosmopolitan cultures within which thriving contemporary art communities make innovative use of a range of electronic media. Some of China’s most notable video artists have been trained and have established careers in and between the two cities. This exhibition showcases a diverse range of video works by the latest generation of artists to emerge from Shanghai and Hangzhou. All of the works involve encounters between internationally established approaches to art-making and local forms of cultural thinking and practice. Some evoke atmospheres of anxiety and unease; others, beauty and meditative stillness. Many also display a wry sense of humour, playfulness and desire to provoke, characteristic of the generation of artists born in China after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. The exhibition is complemented by examples of graphic work by artist/designer Pan Jianfeng showing in the Angear Visitor Centre.

    New Art New China Lakeside Arts Nottingham

  10. ‘RoCH Fans & Legends’ by Susan Pui San Lok – QUAD, Derby
    18 September – 15 November 2015
    susan pui san lok premieres a new body of work titled RoCH Fans & Legends, commissioned by QUAD and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CfCCA), in partnership with Animate Projects and the University of Salford. Featuring single and multi-channel moving image works for gallery and online, RoCH draws on fan uploads of numerous adaptations of The Condor Trilogy (1957-61), a classic ‘new wuxia’ epic by Louis Cha aka Jin Yong, to explore some of its recurring tropes and translations – its fantasies, landscapes and archetypes, as well as its ‘poor’ and ‘pidgin’ iterations, in diasporic popular culture.

    Susan Pui San Lok

  11. ‘Edge of The Known World: New Landscapes from China and St Kilda’ by JOSIE JENKINS & JOHN ELCOCK – Corke Gallery, Liverpool
    1 – 24 July 2015

    Corke Gallery, Liverpool, UK presents a new collaboration by artists Josie Jenkins and John Elcock. The exhibition ʻEdge of The Known World: New Landscapes from China and St Kildaʼ explores the evolving landscape of China and the remote islands of St Kilda, Scotland. Artist Josie Jenkins shows work produced in China following her recent residency in Xiamen with the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC). The exhibition will feature a large scale painting depicting imagery from Yangshan Deep Sea Port in Shanghai. Jenkins remarked: “In China, I continually see and hear things that surprise me and some things that at first I found unbelievable. The landscape of China offers a complete contradiction to the landscape of Britain.” Jenkinsʼ work explores the way we shape our environment. Taking inspiration from the subtle incongruity between natural and unnatural elements, as well as the more noticeable disorder found in our modern landscape. Her work often include ambiguous elements, or images assembled from different sources.

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