ArtSlant: Vegetable Matters

Country Fair

Little Donkey Farm, West of Houshajian Village, Sujiatuo Zhen, Haidian District, Beijing

April 16, 2011

To the North-West of Beijing just beyond the sixth ring road, approaching the mountains and the Great Wall, you find the Little Donkey Farm (LDF), a farm and community organisation promoting Community Supported Agriculture within China. LDF work with sustainable farming methods to grow and distribute healthy produce within the Beijing area. Artist Emi Uemura has been working with this organisation for the past year and April saw the fifth of their Country Fairs, initiated and co-organised by Uemura, an occasion where farmers and customers get together to buy and sell produce and share information. As was always planned by Uemura, Country Fair has now grown beyond her original artistic vision to become a broader platform for the social issues around food production.

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当代艺术与投资《社会食物:植村绘美》 Contemporary Art & Investment “Social Food: Emi Uemura”

There’s an Interesting edition of Contemporary Art & Investment out this month with, amongst other things, a feature on “Plants as a Kind of Art Relationshipology” (sic) for which I was asked to write a new piece about Emi Uemura and her work. This piece sits after a rather fine piece by Michael Eddy which gives a broader view of her practice.

Social Food: Emi Uemura

Through a number of discussions with Emi Uemura, alongside the more obvious subject matter, I’ve come to understand her work as dealing with a boundary between art and life that is forever friable and purposely undefined. I see her taking this position to prevent barriers either to the works’ appreciation or to the applicability of the work. Her subject matter highlights the raw materials of life—our food—and the processes of its production and delivery, but also the significance of our every-day decisions about it. Indeed “the every-day” may be seen as a consistent theme running through her work, an awareness of the unconscious, unremarked actions influenced by our environments and which are part of the bedrock of society. Although her works deal with “big” issues, the environment, organic food, etc. they deliberately try to stay small in scale and demonstrate a lightness of touch, keeping the effects on a personal level.

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Tate Moden (sic)

Ma Yongfeng and Lv Zhiqiang outside the Tate Moden

Ma Yongfeng and Lv Zhiqiang outside the Tate Moden

Lv Zhiqiang 吕智强, a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, has unveiled the newest outpost of the Tate empire in Beijing’s 798 Art District. The Tate Moden has been put together with material scavenged from the College’s art waste, and relocated from CAFA’s campus this weekend. He’ll be hosting shows presumably until he gets shut down. Find him on Seven Star West Road 七星西街 (behind the coach).

UPDATE: Tate Moden lasted a week before it was asked to leave.

ArtSlant: Tang Reaches for the Stars

Tracing the Milky Way: Chen Zhen, Huang Yong Ping, Shen Yuan, Wang Du, Yan Pei-Ming, Yang Jiechang

Tang Contemporary, Gate No.2, 798 Art District, Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

26 March – 14 May, 2011

It may seem contrary, but I can’t ignore how new or renovated art spaces affect the way works are shown and received, as well as how they represent a gallery’s plans and priorities. Any conclusions drawn remain highly speculative, but in the physical remains left behind by the development process, the choices made and priorities focused upon as manifest in the physical spaces, we can perhaps gain some insight into the nature of a gallery.

Thai gallery Tang Contemporary originally opened their Beijing space in 2006 and have occupied their site with a series of large-scale installations and commissions. One in particular which stands out for me was Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Freedom in 2009, which seemed to push the space to an extreme, saturating the structure in gallons of water from its serpentine fire-hose. Although not necessarily a consequence of this piece, at the end of 2010 Tang made the traumatic leap of gutting the space and starting again from scratch.

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ArtSlant: Abstraction in Context

Breaking Away – an Abstract Art Exhibition: Chen Yufan, Ding Yi, Gong Jian, Guan Fengdong, Hou Yong, Huang Rui, Jiang Fang, Jiang Zhi, Liang Quan, Liu Wei, Xie Molin, Xu Hongmin, Yan Lei, Yang Liming, Zhang Enli, Zhan Rui, Zhang Wei, Zhong Shan, Zhao Gang

Boers-Li Gallery, I-706 Hou Jie, 798 Art District, No.2 Hou Yuan, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Beijing, China

9 April – 8 May, 2011

The politics of abstraction tread a very fine line. The style can be favored as a rejection of the illusions of representation in favor of a more direct engagement with perception, material and form; or, it can be perceived to be a rescinding of responsibility from making clearly defined statements. Breaking Away, Boers-Li Gallery’s second major group show since decamping to 798, presents approaches to abstraction by Chinese artists, suggesting its continued relevance for them. While presenting a fine selection of works picking up and over the traditions of abstraction, as an unintended consequence Breaking Away also makes problematic the relationship between historical and contemporary work within the gallery context in the current art environment in Beijing.

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