Breaking Away – an Abstract Art exhibition

09 Apr - 08 May 2011

Huang Rui
Infinite Space, 1979
oil on canvas
9 April - 8 May, 2011

Since the late 1970s Chinese artists would appear to have attempted all possible endeavors to make abstract art. In those years, characterized by breaking away from strict control and regulations, abstract or non-figurative art became a "space" for free and unlimited thinking and acting by blocking out social-political realities and their sometimes ironic artistic representations. It is for this reason that what seems to be the first abstract oil painting in China, made in 1979 by Huang Rui and included in this exhibition, bears the title "Infinite Space." Art should show a world without ideological and artistic boundaries.

Throughout the past 30 years of Chinese painting it is interesting to see that, in the period before 1989, quite a few rebellious artists started their careers by making abstract art. Now a younger generation of artists is taking up this visual language again, a language that is almost as diverse as the artists active in the field. Some artists are oriented towards the "geometric" or "expressionist," while others are based in "language" or "calligraphy," and quite a few concentrate on "ink," "color," "monochrome," or other specific techniques and processes. Even some work categorized as "concrete" or "non-representational" could be said to belong to the family of abstract art.

Abstract art has been underrepresented in the reception of Chinese art, which remains dominated by a strongly figurative and representational image culture, conceptual or not. Abstract artists of the 1980s generation were confronted with a post-89 political reality that found artistic answers in a pamphleteering and ironic realism marked by clear statements, but the current generation has come to realize that such statements have lost their sincerity and meaning through indefinite repetition.

The group show Breaking Away brings together key early work with a broad range of very diverse recent work. It is this diversity that makes the work of these artists so appealing: on a purely aesthetic level, attention is focused on the visual and material aspects of art and especially on the use of color and treatment of the surface—the ultimate substance of painting. By entering this pure visual terrain every artist initiates his or her own research to develop a persona language with its own vocabulary. But the field of abstract art is also markedly diverse on what could be called an ethical level, as these works are highly personalized endeavors of the artists’ anxiety to articulate their individual ways of seeing in a world dominated by collective representations of social and political reality.

This exhibition visualizes this perspective shift on another level by positioning the works included on copies of China's official newspapers—China Daily and People’s Daily—pasted to the gallery walls.

Chen Yufan(1973) , Ding Yi(1962), Gong Jian(1978), Guan Fengdong(1985) , Hou Yong(1976), Huang Rui(1952), Jiang Fang(1974), Jiang Zhi(1971), Liang Quan(1948), Liu Wei(1972), Xie Molin(1979), Xu Hongmin(1971), Yan Lei(1965), Yang Liming(1975), Zhang Enli(1965), Zhan Rui(1980), Zhang Wei(1952), Zhong Shan(1971), Zhao Gang(1961) .

Tags: Po-i Chen, Zhang Enli, Li Gang, Xu Hongmin, Ce Jian, Gong Jian, Yan Lei, Ji Lei, Lu Liang, Xie Molin, Zhan Rui, Huang Rui, Li Shan, Zhang Wei, Liu Wei, Li Yan, Ding Yi, O Zhang, Jiang Zhi