Iona Whittaker

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From Realism to Radicalism: Speaking with Philip Tinari, Curator of Focus China 2014   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
at The Armory Show March 6th, 2014 - March 9th, 2014
Posted 2/27/14
The first Armory Show in 1913 introduced European avant-garde painting and sculpture to the American public. Roughly a century later the New York fair has chosen contemporary works from China to be its focus. Sixteen galleries will travel to New York from Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong next week and about half of them will be bringing the work of a young generation.   This year’s curator for the Focus section is Philip Tinari. Formerly the Chief Editor of LEAP magazine, Tinari is... [more]
Thank God: Questioning Belief, Questioning Faith   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Li Wei 黎薇 at Gallery Yang December 21st, 2013 - February 16th, 2014
Posted 1/11/14
In her work, Li Wei is not shy. She has created life-sized vegetative figures in hospital beds, dogs in cages as if impounded, busts of young women staring ahead, showers with underwear hung casually on them and the standing bodies of child performers in their costumes. All are painstakingly made – painted with striking naturalism by the young artist, who herself prefers to be referred to as a he, and recognises not gender as such, but a general human condition. The common expression on these... [more]
Temuulen Batmunkh, aka “TML”, is a digital and graffiti artist hailing from Ulan Bator. The twenty-three-year-old sees himself as part of a new wave of urban culture in Mongolia, where migration from the countryside to the capital city – which until recently had a population of under 1 million – is causing new youth culture to develop. As a street artist and through using digital media, TML aims to create work with an identity that is at once distinctly Mongolian and contemporary. For him,... [more]
In a setting far removed from Beijing’s urgent crowds lies the home of Hong Ling, one of China’s foremost “modern Guohua” artists. Guohua, meaning “national painting”, refers to the Chinese landscape painting traditions which have evolved over hundreds – perhaps thousands – of years. In classical Chinese philosophy, mood is everything, determining what should be included (be it in poetry, painting or writing), and what is left aside. In seeking to portray a subjective reality – one conditioned... [more]
Beijing, June 2012 - “Hide” is the first solo exhibition by Tang Yongxiang. On show at Beijing’s Hemuse Gallery are a series of striking paintings in an unreal vein. Their blue hues and layered compositions featuring everyday subjects are compelling – fragments subtracted and re-presented from life in a mode not of concrete perception, but from a perspective more eclectic and conceptual. The lively pictorial relationships Tang creates speak of the artist’s wish for his practice never to... [more]
By way of an update on what is to be found beyond the walls of Beijing’s galleries: Chronicles, directed by Roman Gabria of Gabria Visual Theatre troupe in St. Petersburg, brought a striking performance to Beijing’s Russian Cultural Centre at the beginning of this month. Little known outside Russia and barely in translation, it’s not easy to find out about this small troupe, which often consists only of Roman Gabria himself. Opened last year, the Russian Cultural Centre has been slowly but... [more]
Beyond the Door that is Often Kept Closed   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Wei Chen, Jinghu Li, Ying Miao, Wenxiang Su, Rougue Art Team, Qu Xu, Moyi Zhang at Hemuse Gallery October 30th, 2011 - November 30th, 2011
Posted 11/6/11
Last Sunday the brand-new, oddly-named ‘Hemuse’ gallery drew a crowd to its first exhibition with works by six young artists, one collective and hotpot snacks in the Pinguo development in Beijing’s business district. The exhibition’s title is ’Smile,’ enlisted both for its resonance as a filmic device conveying at the same time pathos and sweetness, and also as a sardonic, pseudo-amicable response to the societal contradictions highlighted in Chaplin’s Modern Age. But, as the curator notes... [more]
Oddball Effigies   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Colin Chinnery at Pékin Fine Arts (Beijing) September 3rd, 2011 - October 16th, 2011
Posted 10/1/11
For his last show at Pekin, ‘I Want What You Want,’ Colin Chinnery duplicated individual works and placed them in formation in such a way as to undermine their individual identities. Now, he has arranged in the gallery an odd little melange of mechanisms, objects and occurrences that address themselves to the relationships between things, their material and orientation. There are five metal frames or stands ringing the floor space. Each of them drags a small object slowly to and fro along a... [more]
From Ink Painting to Plush Bonsais   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Sayaka Abe, Chen Hangfeng, Shi Jing, Shi Jinsong, Girolamo Marri, Gao Mingyan, Qian Rong, Ji Wenyu at OV Gallery September 11th, 2010 - October 17th, 2010
Posted 9/18/11
The original Chinese Literati, we learn from a quotation by Chen Jiru in the late Ming era that is noted in this exhibition’s accompanying essay, led a sheltered life. Their pastimes included ‘tasting tea, revising books, waiting for the moon, midday nap, walking about with a cane, washing ink stones…’ – not exactly a frenetic schedule. The situation of contemporary artists now is very different; as much as many might cultivate a degree of distance in order to maintain a creative space of their... [more]
Waterworld   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Yang Fudong, Geng Jianyi, Wu Shanzhuan at ShanghART H-space September 7th, 2011 - October 24th, 2011
Posted 9/15/11
Curated by LEAP Editor Philip Tinari and featuring big name artists Yang Fudong, Wu Shanzhuan and Geng Jianyi, ‘Waterworks’ was an eagerly-awaited exhibition, part of the cluster of openings at M50 just before SH Contemporary. The exhibition’s title is born of an unrealised installation by Geng Jianyi from 1987 called . For the current show, water is enlisted as the starting-point for the works of the three artists, all of which in some way link to the idea of water as a core substance, and... [more]
The Face of Zi U   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Xu Yong at 798 Space August 15th, 2012 - September 27th, 2012
Posted 8/21/11
Xu Yong’s name might be familiar for various reasons.  He is known as a pioneer of the 798 art district, having been one of the first to rent a disused factory space for art usage in 2002. Now a gracious post-industrial hall top-lit by Bauhaus windows, and with Maoist slogans still running along the ceiling segments, 798 Space makes for a memorable display setting. The black and white hutong photographs Xu took around Beijing during the 1990s  both made his name and revealed his sensibility as... [more]
Venice, Aug. 2011 - As an artist, I constantly feel lost and I feel I am facing horror! I’m lost in the Chinese contemporary art world, which only seems to be dealing with the whole instead of treasuring individuals to light the world. I believe: I am human. In my eyes, the flourishing of contemporary art is nothing more than a mixture between the curiosity of the Westerners and the speculations of the New Rich in the East! Thus reads part of Xing Xin’s statement on the occasion of his second... [more]
The Air We Breathe   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Jia Aili, Wang Guangle, Tu Hongtao, Li Qing, QinQi, Qiu Xiaofei at Iberia Center for Contemporary Art June 25th, 2011 - August 27th, 2011
Posted 8/7/11
Billed by ARTINFO as one of the six best art exhibitions in Beijing this Summer, the Iberia Centre’s 'Fly Through the Troposphere – Memo of the New Generation Painting' is a calmly executed show. A solemn atmosphere pervades the room, brought about in large part by the wall text, which, in introducing these six artists of the so-called 'floating generation,' speaks of 'rapid social changes,' 'the decreasing of humane concerns’ and experiences of confusion, split and uncertainty of judgment.... [more]
Hong Kong, May 2011 - Visitors to the Art Futures section in Art HK were paused in their tracks and enticed into a big, complex structure that stood in a clearing between the booths. It was possible to climb into this installation - a mass of natural bamboo poles bound into multiple and layered grids with string - which was fitted with motion and light sensors to trigger sound as visitors moved about inside it: a combination of traditional and modern technologies. This was Indian artist Asim... [more]
Glad Gazing at the Commune   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Zhao Yao at Beijing Commune June 12th, 2011 - August 29th, 2011
Posted 6/27/11
Zhao Yao was amongst the emerging artists featured in Taikang Space’s "51m2” series  that stretched from early 2009 to the beginning of this year; one suspects he will not be the only one to have a solo exhibition this or next year partly as a result. The pieces that occupied a single room at Taikang – the graphite-obscured bank notes, coins rubbed smooth, a chat-room-charted version of Beijing time, a long length of material inscribed with a series of numbers – do not reappear here. What does... [more]
The Poetics of Time   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Wang Guangle at Beijing Commune April 23rd, 2011 - May 22nd, 2011
Posted 5/22/11
Wang Guangle’s current solo exhibition makes some interesting appeals to definition. Might it be called a sculpture, an installation, a painting, a fissure, a lesion or mouth of some kind on the wall of Beijing Commune? This is the artist’s current solo exhibition at the gallery where he had his first one back in 2009; the latter displayed examples from his series, begun in 2004. Born of the practice of the aged in his home province of painting a layer of lacquer onto their waiting casket for... [more]
- ‘Reality, Actions’ is the first solo exhibition in China by Spanish artist collective Bestué Vives. Projected dynamically around Magician Space are five video pieces dating from different moments in the artists’ career. The earliest of these is Acciones en Casa (Actions at Home, 2005), in which a series of 100 'micro-actions' are performed by the artists themselves in Marc Bestué’s apartment in Barcelona. Each action is introduced with a modest caption giving it a number and a literal title,... [more]
Re-existing Materials   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
He Xiangyu at White Space Beijing April 2nd, 2011 - May 29th, 2011
Posted 4/25/11
He Xiangyu’s current installation dims the lights in White Space’s left-hand gallery. Previously the setting for a dynamic, obfuscatory piece by Yu Bogong, the space is now completely filled with over one hundred thick-set, rough-hewn wooden chairs; bare yellow light bulbs hanging singly from the ceiling drop an earthy, attractive light over this wide pool of furniture. Entering the room is at once an arresting and quasi-religious experience: one comes into contact with enticing darkness, the... [more]
New Artists + New Work   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Zhu Changhai, Yang Dawei, Zhang Dun, Ye Funa, Mi Mai, Zeng Yang, Su Zhiguang at Chambers Fine Art Beijing March 12th, 2011 - April 16th, 2011
Posted 4/18/11
Chambers Fine Art’s most recent exhibition presented the work of a set of seven not-before-seen artists under the arc of a simple premise: 'make something new.'  Of all the attempts to dissolve curatorial interventions that go on, this offered perhaps an easy solution – new artists + new work; no background concept to run with or discard when looking at it. On show were pieces using photography, video, pencil, painting and ink. There was engaging variety between works that share the same... [more]
Agential Artistry   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
He Chi, GAO FENG, Zhao Guanghui, Li Hui, Zhang Liaoyuan, Zhang Qikai, HU QINGYAN, Cheng Ran, Zhang Wei, Zhao Zhao, Zhang Zhenyu, JI ZHOU at Li Space February 26th, 2011 - April 3rd, 2011
Posted 4/11/11
The exhibit, , reminds us that making art is a choice. The current phase of socio-economic transition in China presents a difficult predicament; cultural context – ‘the sublimating melody of a rising great nation’-- is juxtaposed with the ‘survival environment', that is, increasing pressure on individuals amid their daily lives. For the artists, those most highly charged with expression and response, a second duality exists: which way to create. Either they can face head-on the pressure to... [more]
Women's Art in China   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
at CAFA Art Museum December 17th, 2010 - February 20th, 2011
Posted 2/28/11
“You wouldn’t stage an exhibition called “Men’s Art," would you?” My companion commented on the way to CAFA to see ‘Self-Image: Women Art in China.'  The idea of an exhibition focussing explicitly on men’s art is quite incongruous  anywhere but especially, perhaps, in China, where the art scene is truly male-dominated; the roster of names associated with the advent of contemporary art in China are almost all male. Were there to be a chronological exhibition of art by men only, chances are it... [more]
The World According to Lv Peng   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Lv Peng at Dialogue Space January 22nd, 2011 - February 28th, 2011
Posted 2/28/11
        Not to be confused with the curator and critic of the same name, Lv Peng is a forty-four year old artist from Beijing. Last year, his works were shown in Hong Kong in an exhibition entitled ‘Empty City’; his current solo show is called ‘Empty Age.' Empty is clearly a compelling word for Lv. Asked recently for his definition of ‘Empty Age,' he wondered how Beijing would feel and what it would be like if it were suddenly to become empty and silent; despite the exhibition’s title,... [more]
Painting Peanuts   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Wang Min at White Space Beijing January 9th, 2011 - March 27th, 2011
Posted 2/14/11
White Space Beijing is a big white cube of a gallery in Caochangdi. Downstairs are two large rooms, currently occupied by Chen Guangwu and Yu Bogong. Upstairs, the gallery is pleased also to have a smaller space available called ‘the Hub’ where they can show younger, less prominent artists’ work. On show now at the Hub are some works by Wang Min, a 36 year old painter. There are a number of small paintings to see here, some hung in a line, a couple on their own, and more grouped together in... [more]
Street Art   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Patty Chang, Liu Chuang, Wang Gongxin, Rania Ho, Li Jinghu, Yan Lei, Euan Macdonald, Zhang Peili, Dan Perjovschi, Wang Wei at Arrow Factory January 21st, 2011 - February 17th, 2011
Posted 2/7/11
Not much is likely to be written about Arrow Factory’s ‘Collection Highlights’; this is not because it is a bad exhibition or lacks interest. Paradoxically, it is the nature of the venue itself that has propelled it forward as one of Beijing’s few truly ‘alternative’ art sites (as Robin Peckham pointed out in an earlier ArtSlant review) and at the same time, keeps anything beyond a small returning audience at a distance. Others remain aware of Arrow Factory’s activities - and excited by them -... [more]
Art for a Digital Age   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Yan Xing, Zhuang Hui, Chen Shaoxiong, Leng Wen, Lu Zhengyuan at Pékin Fine Arts (Beijing) January 15th, 2011 - April 18th, 2011
Posted 1/24/11
Jaron Lanier does not look as you might expect a computer scientist to look. A photo portrait of him on his homepage shows his dreadlocks spreading away, tentacle-like, to become like tree roots, or perhaps wires connecting him to some unseen hardware. His recent book, “You Are Not A Gadget,” is a sobering critique of what the World Wide Web has become - its standardization, the harnessing of social life to the appetite of advertising, the atomizing of creativity and, in its place, the creation... [more]
Playful Pricing   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Liu Ding at Galerie Urs Meile Beijing November 13th, 2010 - January 16th, 2011
Posted 1/17/11
According to its own line of questioning, Liu Ding’s Store should not be called an ‘exhibition.' "Take Home and Make Real the Priceless in Your Heart," "The Utopian Future of Art, Our Reality," "Friendship" and "Conversations" are ‘product lines.' These mark the latest development in Liu Ding’s exploration of value, a project that began in 2008 and includes His Store presents objects in such a way as to call into question the mechanisms that create, confirm and convey value.... [more]
Kaleidoscope Socialism   Pick-button-f22fa879042524f5c7b8d2278b2983b8
Wu Yinxian at Taikang Space April 17th, 2010 - June 17th, 2010
Posted 12/20/10
      In 1983, Wu Yinxian completed his most famous photographic series, ‘Inside the Great Hall of the People.’ These pictures, taken when he was 83 years old, represent the zenith of Wu’s career, and have been hailed as the ‘culmination and closure’ of social realism in Chinese photography. The series is indeed unique: an ideologically-tinted window onto the rooms inside China’s flagship edifice. Row upon row of seats await meeting tables lined with legions of cups; chandeliers hang above,... [more]