Chinese Contemporary Art on Show (UK): August to October 2015

A few more exhibitions have appeared on my radar for the end of the summer, so I thought I’d write another blog post on exhibitions of Chinese contemporary art on show in the UK. The coming months bring emerging to established artists, and local to global exhibitions, projects and events. As always, if I’ve missed any, let me know…or if you want to find out more, get in contact. Go seek, go find, go experience a world of Chinese arts…

  1. ‘Rui Xu Fashion Experience: From Xuan to Blindness’ – Royal College of Art, London
    21 – 30 August 2015 
    Rui Xu, a Chinese fashion designer from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts, is reviving the spirit of the ancient Chinese literati or Chinese high society in her Haute Couture. In her forthcoming fashion exhibition ‘From Xuan to Blindness’ at Royal College of Art, the Red-Dot-Design-Award-winning designer will present her definitive idea about beauty and the authenticity of ‘Chineseness’. Rui Xu’s design is at once both a fusion of and dialogue of the eastern and the western fashion, reflecting how they understand and misunderstand each other. The opening night is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the sobriety of traditional Chinese taste and the exuberance and freedom of western fashion culture together with the designer.

    Rui Xu Fashion Exhibition Poster

  2. Chen Zhen – Frith Street Gallery, London
    Until 14 August 2015
    Chen Zhen was born in Shanghai in 1955 and died in Paris in 2000. He is regarded as one of the leading exponents of the Chinese avant-garde and an emblematic figure in the field of international contemporary art. Combining an intense sensitivity to material and craft with the humanist rationality of a philosopher, Chen Zhen’s sculptural installations and constructions are at once physically grounded and mysteriously auratic. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for London audiences to see at first hand a number of important works by this exceptional artist.

    Chen Zhen Frith Street Gallery

  3. ‘The Thin Silk Thread’ by Xiaowen Zhu – Hundred Years Gallery, London
    1 – 18 October 2015
    ‘The Thin Silk Thread’ is a solo exhibition of new multi-media work by filmmaker and artist Xiaowen Zhu. Focusing on the documentary project Oriental Silk, the exhibition explores the worldview of the owner of the first silk importing company in Los Angeles. Carefully and quietly, the film installation observes this owner, Kenneth Wong, tells his story as he goes through his daily routine: how his parents, first-generation Chinese immigrants, realized the American dream through the store; how the once legendary store’s fortunes rose in close connection with the Hollywood entertainment industry, then fell with the proliferation of cheaper silk available in the new global economy; and how he came to be the  caretaker of the family legacy. His deep feelings for the shop, its history and its future, link to larger discussions concerning the place of craft and authenticity in a world increasingly defined by cheap goods and profit. Reflecting on culture’s ephemerality in contemporary China, Oriental Silk tracks how the disposability of social products infects people’s conceptions of personhood, and how identity is progressively quantified as cultural, political, and economic forces that place the importance of the individual increasingly in question. Throughout the exhibition, Zhu will initiate a series of events, including performance, workshop, and panel, to invite discussions concerning collective memory, cultural heritage, and identity.

    Zhu Xiaowen
    9 October – 21 November 2015
    Gordon Cheung’s second solo exhibition at Edel Assanti examines the relationship between civilisation and conquest. Espousing a bird’s-eye view of the present historical moment, Cheung maps our geopolitical landscape within the context of a broader human story, invoking a causal chain that dates back to the dawn of civilisation. The landscapes of Cheung’s works are populated by references that are both generic and specific, apparitions of a digital age in which reality is experienced as much through technological mediation as first-hand. These paintings begin life as digital sketches, aggregating a mass of found internet imagery in a multilayered, simulated landscape resembling a toxic hyper-reality. Degenerative city scenes and noxious deserts, familiar from dystopic science fiction, here form the backdrop against which the drama of the rise and fall of empires is enacted. ‘The Abyss Stares Back’ meditates on the 21st century collective realisation that the western neoliberal model is in fact not, as posited by Francis Fukuyama at the end of the Cold War, “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution.” However, the mythological prism through which Cheung processes subject matter compels us to view his case studies in the context of historical precedent – part of a recurring cycle in which every empire is destined to fall, to be replaced by another. Indeed, apparitions of Western decadence linger in the form of trophy heads and Dutch still life motifs; the former is employed as an allegory for conquest, the latter a recurring them in Cheung’s practice, referencing the tulip bubble whose collapse brought an end to the Dutch Golden Age.

    Gordon Cheung

  5. ‘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

  6. ‘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.

  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. ‘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 China New Art
  9. ‘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

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