Wednesday, June 29, 2011

REVIEW: Guanxi at the Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou)

Guangdong Museum of Art, Sunday June 19

After going to the Guangdong Musuem, the Guangdong Museum of Art seems to be the total opposite. It is housed under a very ordinary looking building, it looked its age, but the content was serious and very well-curated... of course, I am referring to People's Republic of China standard.

The exhibit was entitled GUANXI. Curated by Jiang Jiehong, it was an attempt to "explore the possible transcendence of the binary relationships on contemporary visual culture and artistic representation, as well as those between thinking and existence, subjectivity and objectivity, individual and society in western philosophy, or heaven and human, concept and entity, being and not-being, logos and utensils in Chinese philosophy".

That might sound quite encompassing and unfocused, but that was exactly what the exhibit set out to achieve, that is to have the invited artists explore these two characters and the results themselves are meant to be studied. The invited artists were: Jiang Zhi, Qiu Zhijie, Shao Yinong, Shi Jinsong, Shi Qing, Xiang Jing, Xiao Yu, Yang Xinguang, Yang Zhenzhong, Zhang Dali, Zhang Enli, Zhuang Hui & Dan'ér. The concept, however, is actually not very new, but the results were quite insightful.

It was the last day of the exhibit and in Guangzhou, that means they can start disassembling some of the exhibit, which is really quite annoying. There were about four rooms/artist's work that was no longer there.

Sculptor Xiang Jing's work was one of my favorite. Just like any good art (at least in my own standard), hers was layered with meanings yet immediately relevant to the viewer or the subject/message. Just like the sculpture below, it is not very difficult to understand Guanxi of male + female = baby; but the headlessness of the subjects and the fact that only the female + baby are naked make one thinks of words like "mindless" and "inequity".

Qiu Zhijie, famous for his works with several mediums including photography and video, calligraphy, interactive art and performances came up with an eco-inspired exhibit (below). The most assertive visual point of his work was a series of books made of wood that almost question the struggle between the gain of discovery in relation or at the expense of the environment.

Avant-garde artist Xiao Yu's chess boards (below) were a far cry from his controversial fetus-bird artwork (grafted head of a human fetus onto the body of a bird), but the simplicity of the melting of the chess pieces onto the board and merging didn't sacrifice the innate power of the message and relevance of Guangxi.

Overall, the exhibition was a compelling study of GUANXI by some of the best artists in China today.

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