Review: Critique, Review: Journal, Re-view: Look again
Re-view: Look again
ACAF Project Space invites you to review our show, in any way you please. We have lots for you to look at, from 15 artists including Chen Wenling, William Yang, Ji Wenyu and Zu Weibing, Wu Daxin, Wu Junyong, Zhang Bojun, Hu Genhua, Miao Xiaochun, Qin Chong, Xu Zhongmin, Qu Yan, Chen Hangfeng and Lu Dongyuan and Song Xi. Thematically concepts about the scale of man and nature, human endeavor, and impermanence evolved from the selection. We feel these ideas are worthy of closer consideration.
For us, this is also a chance to look back at our achievements over the past 16 months as the exhibition heralds some significant structural changes for the gallery, both physically and conceptually.
Shortly after opening Ausin Tung Gallery in July 2011, Yashian Schauble recognised that her vision was probably bigger than the general scope of what could be achieved by a commercial gallery. In January 2012, the Australia China Art Foundation was established as a not for profit organisation, with the aim of developing opportunities for collaborative networks between artists, art professionals, curators and collectors in both countries.
ACAF has continued to build on its reputation for showing new contemporary Chinese art that could not be seen anywhere else in Melbourne, however the decision has been made that as of 2013 the exhibition space at 164 High Street will be run under the name of the Australia China Art Foundation. We will continue to conduct exhibitions at this space, and we will also be incorporating a bookshop and design wares. Whilst the shows will be more “museum-style” albeit on a small scale, we will also continue to operate a stockroom of artworks by artists supported by the Foundation, and any sales will be a valuable stream of revenue not only for the artists, but also for the Foundation.
We are now actively seeking both corporate and private sponsors for our residency programs, exhibitions and art tours operating in both Australia and China. A membership program will further support these exciting activities. There will be more announcements about these ventures soon.
“When a finger is pointing at the moon, the fool sees only the finger.”
‘To point at the moon’ is a phrase taken from the Zen Buddhist proverb. But suppose you point at someone pointing at the moon. A person should - following the direction of your finger, and then the finger of the person you are pointing at - eventually see the moon. But he might only see the other finger and mistake that for the moon instead. Seen in this way, not only does he not see the moon, but he also fails to recognise the actual finger for what it is. The saying is used to describe a person who only sees the obvious (the finger) but neglects the reason you are pointing in the first place (the moon). What is important is that we should see the essential nature or “essence” of the thing being pointed to through the “hand” that is doing the pointing.
After 20 years of rapid development, Chinese contemporary art is at a crucial turning point or crossroad. Although it had gone through a period of blatant imitation of European art language and expression, the western art world seemed stunned and surprised a few years ago to discover there was a contemporary Chinese art practice but they have now adopted a keen ongoing interest. Highly speculative investment by international collectors in this emerging Chinese contemporary market created unprecedented growth and suddenly this hot new market was subject to manipulation by many business interests. The market was flooded with images that contained hollow Chinese symbols and this has been misread by the wider international art world as a ‘westernized Chinese imagination.’
There is much misunderstanding and misinterpretation in the west as to what constitutes contemporary Chinese art, with some assuming that it is all about Chinese icons and political references without understanding that this is only part of the whole. Again, like the proverb, all they are seeing is the superficial or obvious “hand” and not the reason the work was created which contains the “essence” of oriental wisdom and experience.
There seems to be two types of Chinese contemporary art that the West can understand and appreciate. One is based on a curiosity about the mysticism of ancient China which leads to the production of works containing Chinese icons with a stereotypical “Chinatown” interpretation of culture. The other is an interest in modern Chinese ideology which results in works with overt political symbols and references from the Cultural Revolution. These two types of work only allow the West to see the “finger” but not the “moon” that contains the true spirit of eastern art.
Chinese contemporary art should avoid catering to the speculative market as this only leads to the creation of hollow works with one level of meaning. Instead, artists should find a solution to the current crisis by finding an effective way to reconnect their work to the eastern spirit and experience, as it is only when this spirit emerges that it is possible for the world to understand the true value of eastern culture to humanity.
Through this ‘hand’ we need to show the West that contemporary Chinese art contains a genuine eastern spirit. We need to abandon the superficial and hollow political works in favour of the pursuit of an essential eastern artistic and philosophical stance, and only then will we create genuine contemporary Chinese art.
Conversely, it is also through the same “hand” that Chinese artists absorb western culture as a complement to the definitive national spirit. This diversity infuses a vibrant and dynamic worldwide culture and exposes Chinese art to the trends which influence art around the world.
This joint exhibition between Chinese and Australian artists is a review and a concentrated selection of the exhibitions ACAF has organised over the last year. Through the “hand” of this exhibition, Australian audiences could seek to find the “essence” of Chinese contemporary art.
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