The ICA in London has announced its plan to commission Shanghai-based artist Zhang Enli (b1965) to transform the ICA theatre with a painting that will cover the floor and walls. A significant number of artists in China have become dissatisfied with the art created in relation to the changing relationship with the world in the 1980s. A legacy of the Communist regime was Socialist Realism, which in the 1980s many artists sought to subvert. Pi Li in his essay, “Chinese Contemporary Art: Towards Diversity” points out that these artists did not reject the style but the cultural authority that it represented. The first wave of art inspired by Western art movements, had the effect of establishing the individual artist’s right to self- expression. Still there remained a widely held view that art played a vital role in society. Much artistic activity of the past 20 years, and yet as Pi Li points out, art has helped China understand itself, although he adds, “within a few years this high-mindedness had been moderated by materialistic pragmatism. Gaudy Art, which appeared in Beijing in the mid-1990s, is clear proof of this. Indiscriminately combining Western artistic language with Chinese political and folk symbolism, Gaudy Art presented something that a Western art enthusiast might find appealing, but it had no particular relevance at all to real society in China”.
Zhang Enli’s response was to choose everyday objects that he believed would link China to the rest of the world. This, in contrast to his more gestural earlier works, has required a more circumspect approach, and great skill. The choice of mundane objects has enabled Zhang to document his own journey from life in the countryside to the city, a transition that has been made by millions of Chinese people in the past 25 years in particular as the country has become an economic super power. Zhang Enli chooses to portray interiors, in a studio using artificial light which for him enhances the artificial atmosphere, and in turn the unnatural atmosphere of many peoples’ lives in the present time.
The ICA installation will enable viewers in the UK to experience the tension inherent in contemporary life in Shanghai, one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
Zhang Enli at the ICA, London, opens 16 October 2013.
Faith, Narrative and Desire
The British Museum has taken the opportunity of the current celebration of 60 years of Indian independence to offer the public, at a peak period of visitor attendance from overseas, the opportunity to view items from a remarkable collection (much of it recently acquired) of Indian art, extending to some fifty works in all dating from the late 17th century to the beginnings of the twentieth century.
The Enlightenments. Edinburgh International Festival 2009
The 2009 Festival is promoted this year, as taking its inspiration from the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment so the Visual Arts Programme entitled The Enlightenments, has grouped together nine individual contemporary projects, commissions and installations across the City of Edinburgh.
Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution 1760-1830
The Royal Academy of Arts is currently hosting 'Citizens and Kings: Portraiture in the Age of Revolution'. However, despite the British Museum's own superb and scholarly comprehensive exhibition entitled 'Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century' (2003), there seems little evidence of deep scholarship here, building upon that masterly tour de force. Rather, this is (of course) an 'entertainment' (which it undoubtedly will prove to be for the broad mass of the Royal Academy's regular public). This is a shame, for the British Museum had unearthed a world of discovery, no less.
Wrestling with the Angel in the Modern Age
For most of human history, art works were centred on the beliefs of a group and clearly expressed the group's fears, hopes and expectations. In the earliest days, the primary purposes of art were to pay homage to a variety of divine beings and to relate the experiences of men and women with spiritual aspirations.
AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion
Attracting those amorous of Englishness, the socialites and libertines who wear Westwood so well, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 'AngloMania' exhibition this summer has featured internationally in haute couture magazines of the fashionable. Capturing an impression of a nation's notorious vanity, a romance with itself, and the eccentric desire of English designers to re-establish the establishment, the Metropolitan presents quite an odd phenomenon: the Englishness the Western world knows through myth and condescending glances - the notion of a nation.