WRITING ABOUT ART: Heavy Artillery is the latest exhibition from White Rabbit Gallery, as founder and director Judith Neilson continues to build her legacy of collecting and exhibiting works of 21st century Chinese Contemporary Art.
This exhibition is curated by David Williams and surveys 30 works of new and established Chinese artists. The art historical dichotomy between East and West continues to be explored in this exhibition as these artists take the western import of contemporary art and create their own zeitgeist.
Xu Zhen’s European Thousand-armed Classical Sculpture (2013-2014)
Leading the exhibition is a Xu Zhen’s European Thousand-armed Classical Sculpture (2013-2014). Reaching over three metres tall, this pure white sculpture is created with 19 individual figures, single file, on large plinths, high above our natural eyeline, forcing viewers to look up uncomfortably to take in the magnitude of the figures in front of us. The individual sculptures include recognisable figures of Athena, The Statue of Liberty ,Jesus along with other greek and roman statues. The sculpture as a whole, when viewed from the front, bears a resemblance to Guanyin,a Buddhist bodhisattva religious figure representing compassion. This combination of recognised western religious and cultural figures displayed within an established Eastern religious iconic formation, raises considerations of the relationships between the East and the West and questions of counterculture balance/absorption and peace/conflict.
He Xiangyu’s Tank Project (2011-2013)
The question of conflict is also explored through He Xiangyu’s work Tank Project (2011-2013), a life size copy of a Soviet T34 tank, the same tank used by the Chinese military in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The work takes up a large space in the centre of an empty room, where immediately on entering the area, we are struck by the strong smell of luxury Italian leather. The tank has been constructed and hand stitched using this leather, raising considerations of the thousands of designer handbag copies that flood Chinese tourist markets. The tank is without structure, deflated, in the same way you would expect if it had been flattened by a large force.
There are many particularly striking sculptural works in the exhibition, including Library (2008) by Polit-Sheer-Form Office, consisting of 25 bookshelves containing 8,000 books. The books reference Mao Zedong’s ‘Little Red Book’ and raise questions of uniformity and collectivism, and show parallels to Wilfredo Peito’s White Library, (2004) ,an utterly blank room of more than 5,000 identical ,blank books.
Chou Chu-Wang, Four Bliss Stones (2014)
It is not just sculpture that features, Liu Chengrui’s performance video Guazi Moves Earth (2008) is hypnotic, as are Chou Chu-Wang’s oil on canvas The Hours (2015) and Four Bliss Stones (2014), meditative dot paintings on river stones. Shinji Ohmaki’s work Flotage-Tectonics (2013-2015) uses traditional silk screen techniques with a contemporary turn, creating elevation maps that could be mistaken for thumb prints.
There is much to savour in this exhibition, and much more to contemplate. Heavy Artillery is exciting, engaging and confronting in equal measure.