Xu Bing is one of the most internationally recognisable Chinese artists, through his art that for many years has addressed issues of cultural and symbolic communication, and for his role as Vice-President of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. Born in Chongqing in 1955, Xu earned his bachelor degree at CAFA in 1981, staying on as an instructor afterwards. He left China in 1990 to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, living and working in the United States for 18 years before returning again to China in 2008 to take up his current position. CAFA is one a set of eight academies that represent the official route to recognition as an artist, in China. Xu’s appointment as the head of CAFA represented a loosening of the forms of art acceptable within the academic system, opening the doors to a more general embrace of contemporary art in China’s academia. In 2008 CAFA opened its onsite Museum in a building designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, which Xu proudly describes as “the best museum in China,” and it was here that Xu sat down with Art Review to discuss academic life in China and his part in it.
Interviewer: Edward Sanderson Interviewee: Liang Yuanwei
At first glance, “Pomegranate,” Liang Yuanwei’s solo show which opened recently at Beijing Commune, appears to be a rather radical departure from this artist’s previous solo show in the same space in 2010 (“Golden Notes”). “Golden Notes” amassed a group of paintings of a similar format – canvases with floral patterns picked out from an overall gradation of coloured paint. “Pomegranate,” however, seems to present a rather more experimental proposition, and rationalisation of Liang’s practice. In this new show she seems to be dealing directly with the mutable nature of colour: as it is affected by the nature of materials over time, the nature of individual perception, and the nature of mechanical (or otherwise) reproduction. However, both shows, “Pomegranate” and “Golden Notes,” have strong parallels, and can be seen to represent different aspects of a consistent line of research into the appearance and effect of colour, as it exists in painting and in the world.
Edward Sanderson (ES): Taking the show “Pomegranate” as a whole, am I right in thinking that you are trying to investigate the vagaries of the reception of colour, and specifically the reception of painted artworks understood as collections of colours?
Liang Yuanwei (LYW): I actually treat the exhibition “Pomegranate” as one singular work of art, and, yes, I consider these factors through it.