12.01. – 10.03.07
Remixed & Revisited: New Visions on China
Zeng Hao, Shi Xinning, He Sen, Yang Jinsong, Shi Jinsong, Liu Fei , Xu Yihui and Wei Dong
Group exhibition at Arndt & Partner, Zurich
12.01. – 10.03.07
"China Rocks" as the title of the high-profile Art Asia Pacific magazine claimed recently. Chinese Art is the pop star of the current art scene: it's hip, cool, and colourful, tongue in cheek and - watch that wallet - hellishly expensive! Chinese artists are guaranteed to net record sums at auctions, they are the birds of paradise in art galleries and are trimmed into darlings of the media and audience magnets at museum exhibitions. Amidst all the hype, contemporary Chinese art is not just making waves on the international art market, but is also leading China itself to take a fresh look at the traditions, history and the new perspectives of the country. "Remixed & Revisited" gives eight artists the platform and the opportunity to present their view of the Empire of the East and the land of Chairman Mao.
Dollars are the engine of change in China. Following the liberalisation of foreign trade, the struggle for wealth is everyone's primary concern, despite the fact that the country is still officially under Communist rule. Xu Yi Hui makes gilded dollar bills in the traditional style of Chinese porcelain and stashes them in cheap plastic suitcases to resemble smuggled goods. Does the world's top currency belong in China? Has it become the country's real currency that determines the value of everything? The dollar has become the symbol of Western capitalism, a symbol that should really be entirely at odds with the ideology of a nation in a Communist context. In modern China, however, capitalist markets and communist politics are no longer polar opposites, but two sides of the same coin, a coin that is busy shaping a new China.
Along with money came consumerism, and along with consumerism, the desire to consume more. "People are working to buy so much, that they completely forget what they actually need it all for", says Zeng Hao. His oil paintings show people severed from their environment, floating like objects with no aim or direction through a seemingly airless space. The excess of things whose sole purpose is indulgence is also the theme of Yang Jinsong's paintings. In an almost naïve style, he places himself in the middle of this practically infinite world of consumer articles. In what are mostly double portraits, he depicts himself and his wife as part of a world of used goods, in which there is hardly room for more than the listless refusal to use anything again, to appreciate anything a second time.
The two artists Shi Xinning and Wei Dong show two new remixed variations on the history of China. Mao, laughing gaily at the side of Marilyn Monroe, Mao with Peggy Guggenheim on her veranda in Venice, Mao as a pleasure-craving friend of Andy Warhol's: these are Shi Xinning's black-and-white visions of the way Mao's China could have been if China hadn't cut itself off from the capitalist West. But it is Wei Dong who finally makes the link back from the present to the several millenniums old China of the Emperors and philosophers. As his father and grandfather before him, Wei Dong first produces traditional ink paintings on skin-thin rice paper, but then superimposes schematic pictures of lascivious ladies in lurid acrylic colours, figures who show no interest or respect for this time-honoured tradition.
The "new" Chinese woman, no longer obliged to subject herself to work and the will of her husband and family, is the theme of Liu Fei's work, in which this figure becomes a prototype. A skinhead with a broad, diabolical grin, who sometimes sports a machine gun, the type of woman Liu Fei shows is ruthlessly determined to embody the new China. Utterly different are the shy young Lolitas depicted by He Sen, uprooted figures who, bony, bored and smoking, are looking to find their place in the new Chinese society. Right in the middle of these two extremes is where Shi Jinsong places his prototype of the new man. The sculptor sees this man as a self-determined, muscular symbol of a new world order. The man is no longer alienated from the consumer world, but has become one with it. "Halong Kelong", a work first shown at the Shanghai Biennial 2006, consists of padded motorcycle suits, plastered with appliqués and symbols of consumer goods. They are nothing less than contemporary suits of armour, which are not designed to protect us from consumer worlds, but have arisen from their midst.
Wei Dong, born in 1968 in Chifeng/Inner Mongolia, studied Art at the Beijing Normal Institute. Lives and works in New Jersey. Solo show at the Chinese Contemporary Art Gallery in Beijing (2005). Also represented in exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2005), the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (2004) and the Espace Cardin, Paris (2002).
Liu Fei, born in 1964 in Nanjing, studied at the Nanjing Academy of Fine Arts. He presented solo exhibtions e.g. in Beijing (2006/2005, L.A. Gallery) and Hong Kong (2003, Schoeni Art Gallery).
Zeng Hao, born in 1963 in Kunming/Yunnan, studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he now lives and works. His latest exhibition was his first solo show in the US at Fredericks & Freiser, New York (2006). He participated in exhibitions at the Centre d'art contemporain, Meymac, France (2004), the Prague Biennial (2005) and the Shanghai Gallery of Art (2006).
Shi Jinsong, born in 1970 in Dangyang/Hubei, lives and works in Wuhan/Hubei and Beijing. Besides the 2006 Shanghai Biennale he participated in exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland, the Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art (both 2005) and at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2003).
Yang Jinsong, born in 1971 in Chongqing, lives and works in Beijing. Besides solo shows e.g at the Beijing Art Now Gallery in 2005, he participated in the successful touring exhibition "ChinArt" staged by the Küppersmühle Museum, Duisburg, Germany (2002; followed by Rome and Budapest etc.).
He Sen, born in 1968 in Yunnan, studied at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts and the Kassel School of Art and Design. He lives and works in Beijing. In 2004 the Beijing Art Now Gallery pesented a solo exhibtion by Sen. Further he participated in the group exhibition "China Avant Garde" (Vanessa Art House, Jakarta) and "New Perspectives in Chinese Painting" (Marella Arte Contemporanea, Milan).
Shi Xinning, born in 1969 in Yingkou/Liaoning, lives and works in Beijing. 2005 he participated in the exhibition Mahjong. Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg Collection at the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland.
Xu Yi Hui, born in 1964 in Lian Yungang/Jiangsu, studied art in Nanjing and Beijing, and now lives and works in Beijing. He participated in many important exhibitions at the China National Gallery, Beijing (1989), Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1998), and the Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland (2005), among others.