Friday, 26 July 2013

Chinese art at or near the Venice Biennale, II

Chinese artists turned up in several other sites, often unexpectedly, as in the Pavilion of Kenya, where the curators were Italian - Sandro Orlandi and Paola Poponi - and the artists from Kenya, Italy, and, mostly, China. The title of the show was "Reflective Nature, A New Primary Enchanting Sensitivity." The centerpiece was Feng Zhengjiu's Garden, 2009, but other works were perhaps more engaging.

I was taken by a group of photographs of people seeming to fly above landscapes, for example, Flying Over Venice, by Li Wei.

A painting by He Weiming, In the Deep Mountains, No. 4, 2012, was almost lost behind an arch and seemed deeply thoughtful and evocative, perhaps just because it was large, hidden, detailed, and monotone.

There was another rather traditional painter in this pavilion whose work attracted me. Fan Bo's painting of an old man standing, titled The Flowers Blow and Fade. Born in 1957, Fan Bo is somewhat older than many of the hippest new artists, and his work is far more reflective than most.

 We weren't always tuned in to the diverse sources of Chinese artists. Only later did we realize that the collateral exhibition, "Rhapsody in Green," was sponsored by the National Taiwan University of Arts, not from mainland China. The brochure talks about the various meanings of the "Chinese color word 'ch'ing,'" which could refer to green, blue or black, but green was the theme color of this display.  First we saw Green Box, 2004 by Kao Tsan-Hsing (b. 1945), one of several organic-looking sculptures made from painted iron and steel wool.

Huang Ming-Chang (b. 1952),  produced exhaustively detailed oil paintings of rice fields.

Finally, Chou Yu-Cheng (b. 1976) is a much more conceptual artist, who had two graduate students make a 2/3 copy of a highly regarded painting of the colonial period by Kuo Hsueh-Ha titled Near Mount Yuan-Shan, 1928 lauded for its use of 10 shades of green gouache.

At the conservatory of music there was a display of the Shanghai artist Simon Ma, some works in collaboration with Julian Lennon. I found them rather graceful, but also a bit facile. You need only go to his website to get a sense of his accomplishments and aspirations. The building, the Palazzo Pisani, dates from the 17th century and is decorated with gorgeous mouldings and eighteenth-century painting.

And in a church in Dorsoduro there was a huge kind of wacky display of the work of Zhong Biao, installed sort of in .imitation of Maurizio Cattelan's show at the Guggenheim, with all the slickly detailed and commercially surreal paintings hung randomly from the ceiling. There was a large label of unanswerable and not very interesting questions on the church wall. Zhang is an associate professor at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. Nonetheless, I wondered where this came from and what the curator, Gary Xu, from the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was thinking. 

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