New art from China is the inaugural exhibition currently on display at the recently reopened Saatchi Gallery. The Gallery’s new home at Duke of York Square is a sight worth seeing in itself. The Georgian style building formerly inhabited by the Ministry of Defence is now home to large galleries, tons of space, and beautiful hard wood floors and is truly impressive. And the best part is that not only does Saatchi offer free admission for his cutting edge contemporary art exhibitions but membership is also free. Right, back to the exhibition. I have to start with Li Songsong because he is without a doubt one of the best artists I’ve come across in a long time. (Songsong’s ‘National Geographic’ 2006 is featured on the left)
Songsong’s interest in the power of images materialises in his powerfully presented oil paintings that border abstraction while simultaneously celebrating the materials that he uses. He works exclusively from historical photographs and places familiar scenes out of context altering their meaning, forcing politically charged images into subjectivity. For instance, with his painting Cuban Sugar, the artist comments on a time when China was forced to engage in domestic sugar trade with Cuba to cut inflation. Songsong’s divides his canvas into several different scenes in his representation of the events that took place during this period of Chinese crisis, thus fracturing its political potency. The artist’s montage operates as a painting inside a painting suggesting a layered and disjointed approach to historical interpretation. His style is expressionistic, it is clear that his interest lies in the manipulation of paint and the play on deceptive qualities of images often achieved with photography. Thumb prints are undeniably visible in his thick globs of paint, which up close looks like nothing more than thick layers of paint that someone has danced around in but from the slightest distance, clear images appear as precise as they would appear in a photograph. Every angle is a new vantage point in which to view Songsongs work and with each vantage point is a different way of looking at his images.
Another artist worth checking out is Zeng Fanzhi. On display is his a painting from his Hospital series which resembles something that you would expect from Francis Bacon. In his grotesque parody of thought and action, figures are painted in an almost graffiti like manner with exaggerated body parts emphasising their gestures of pain and anguish. His subjects maintain a feeling of remoteness from the horror that surrounds them in Fanzhi’s A&E Waiting Room.
There are many other Chinese contemporary artists of note in this exhibition as well as many politically and religiously charged images to ponder. It is extremely thought provoking and certainly well curated, not to mention a refreshing welcome from some of the meaningless, sub-standard questionable art work that has been around the London lately.
Interested in Chinese Contemporary Art? Visit VisualBites China at http://visualbiteschina.blogspot.com
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