Since the 1980s, painting has played a prominent role in Chinese contemporary art. CHINAMANIA provides a multifaceted snapshot of the Chinese painting scene today.
ARKEN’s exhibition presented 24 paintings by 11 different contemporary Chinese artists, ranging from artists whose careers took off in the 1990s to today’s generations of young artists. Most of the paintings were made especially for this show.
Taking up and developing their country’s classic art forms, the artists mix stylistic features of propaganda-art woodcuts, Socialist Realism and classic Chinese 20th-century oil painting with expressive brushwork, cute cartoon esthetics and figurative realism.
Thematically, the artists treat both national and international issues. On the one hand, they deal with local and personal issues relating to their own lives and emotions, and Chinese art, culture and history. On the other hand, they turn their gaze outward to the global world society. Inspired by the art and visual culture of other countries, their paintings have clear parallels to various Western art movements, notably Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art.
While the style of each artist in this exhibition is uniquely different, they all share an interest in figurative painting and existential themes. In powerful colors, the artists employ the narrative potential of figurative painting to rouse our curiosity and fire our imagination. Together, they form a visual universe that is brightly colored, diverse and distinctly narrative.
ARKEN opened the first of three contemporary art exhibitions under the heading UTOPIA with Chinese Qiu Anxiong (b. 1972). His work Staring into Amnesia (2008), an enormous original Chinese train carriage from the 1960s, was the principal work in ARKEN’s exhibition. Documentary video clips and poetic silhouettes have been added to the carriage taking us on a journey into China’s past, present and future.
In recent years Qiu Anxiong has received great international attention with his poetic and moving video works which span from big and complex installations to hand painted animated films. The exhibition was the first presentation of Qiu Anxiong’s works in Denmark.
In addition, the UTOPIA exhibition presented three of Qiu Anxiong’s animated films. Inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphy, the Chinese artist lead us through a mythologised and dreamy version of the religious and political conflicts of modern society.
Qiu Anxiong belongs to a new generation of Chinese artists who bridge Chinese culture and history and today’s globalised contemporary art. Cultures arise and perish, and the yearning for the perfect society is closely followed by the utopia’s antithesis: an oppressed, conflicted dystopia. In a poetic and sensual idiom Qiu Anxiong raises the issue of which new utopias may provide the clue for today’s globalised reality.
UTOPIA at ARKEN debated the utopia, the grand shared notion of the perfect society. Whatever happened to it? Does it still exist today? And if not, what has taken its place? Individual dreams of the good life, conceptions of globalisation, tiny enclaves of communities?
ARKEN presented 53 selected works of French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists from The Israel Museum, Jerusalem: Paintings and sculptures from the turn of the last century, with main works by artists such as Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Rodin, Gauguin, Cézanne and Van Gogh.
These brilliant artists revolutionised world art. Their new idiom was a reaction to the modern age.
The Impressionists were open-air painters, studying the changeable, vibrating sunlight. In the mirror image of the water they saw all contours dissolved. The Impressionists painted quickly and sketch-like in order to capture a world in constant change.
The Post-Impressionists denoted a number of contemporary and slightly younger artists who painted differently than the Impressionists as well as each other. Painting with dots or heavy contours, they sought stable structures in a reaction against Impressionism’s fleeting, quivering surface of light.
The Impressionists often portrayed the modern age of industrialisation and the emergence of the metropolis. The next generation abandoned the big city, dreaming of a more original existence in the country, in the provinces or in remote exotic tropical islands.
The exhibition was organised by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem in collaboration with ARKEN Museum of Modern Art.