Page 1

East by South XX East Contemporary Art from East Asia XX



East by South East Contemporary Art from East Asia

The idea for this exhibition came about through discussions with the art collector Wayne Warren. He has witnessed the dynamic developments taking place in East Asian contemporary art since the 1980s and built up an extraordinary collection from China, Tibet and Japan. This work has formed the starting point for East by South East. OBS Gallery at Tonbridge School is a fitting venue to showcase his collection as it has strong links with East Asia; a number of students come from the region, staff go there every year to meet prospective students and their parents and Mandarin is taught at exam levels. The exhibition East by South East will share the culture of the students from East Asia with the rest of the school and the wider community. We have built on Warren’s collection in order to show a broad range of work from East Asia, all of which has been created in the last 20 years, the majority in the last 10. By no means intending to be an exhaustive survey, the exhibition does however include some of the seminal works from this time. Despite the cultural diversity of the region, there are themes that unite the pieces across geographic boundaries and time. These include the relationship with and reinterpretation of tradition, an engagement with issues of politics, society and the state, diaspora communities and an engagement with consumerism. Often more than one of these themes are present in a work. Many artists in the exhibition have built upon the strong cultural traditions in their country of origin and subtly subverted them, or used them to engage with contemporary ideas as a way of giving new meanings to the tradition. For example, the artist Yan Huang has appropriated the Chinese tradition of landscape painting, but instead of using canvas as a base, he uses human bodies or objects as the background. The landscape is thereby animated, reinvigorated and forced to follow new forms. For his installation in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, the artist Ai Weiwei employed 1,600 ceramic workers from the district of Jingdezhen to hand craft porcelain sunflower seeds, drawing on traditions that once made porcelain one of China’s most prized exports. By giving work to an area of unemployment caused by the dominance of new manufacturing systems, Ai Weiwei asks us to question our understanding of mass production; the seeds are beautifully made unique pieces, a far cry from stereotypical ideas associated with the phrase ‘made in China’. The traditional arts of brush and ink painting and calligraphy have been the starting point for several of the artists in East by South East including the Chinese artists Gao Ping and Lao Dan. Gao Ping’s paintings subvert the once heroic genre to create seemingly lost and isolated figures, Lao Dan transgresses the canon of traditional calligraphy, changing the brushstrokes beyond any sure meaning in order to create an abstract whole. 2



Religious iconography and ritual plays an important role in the work of many of the artists from China and Tibet. Zhang Huan has used the ash from incense sticks ritually burned at Buddhist temples as his medium, to make both sculpture and paintings. It is used in the painting Zhu Gangqiang No1 to explore themes of memory and spirituality. In contrast, the Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso subverts stereotypical ideas regarding Tibetan culture by depicting the word ‘Om’, used in Buddhist mantras out of hundreds of brightly coloured stickers from popular culture. He thereby creates an image that blends spirituality with commercialism. One of the earliest pieces in the exhibition is Zhang Xiogang’s My Dear Friend. This piece can be read as a veiled criticism of Chinese society and the dominant Maoist ideology that had long suppressed individuality. It is one of the works that is part of Xiogang’s Blood Lines series, featuring figures dressed in military uniforms and Mao jackets, reminiscent of the small black and white family photographs made during the Cultural Revolution. However, Xiogang’s figures are connected by thin red lines, suggesting the unbreakable ties of family. It is a comment on the Cultural Revolution, a time when the Party took precedence over family, people were forced to prove their loyalty to the state, and millions of families were broken up and dispersed. Liu Bolin’s series of photographs ‘Hiding in the City’ also speaks of the relationship between the individual and the state, prompting questions about the safety of the individual, such as is it wiser to blend in or stand out? In the past decade the balance of economic and military power has shifted away from America and Europe towards Asia. Globalisation and economic expansion have affected all of the artists in East by South East. In 1997 a consumer survey showed that Coca Cola was the most famous and admired company in China. In the 1990s Chinese artists were the first to articulate the impact of huge transnational corporations in the transformation of Chinese society. This is the subject at the heart of the Luo Brothers work, Welcome to the Word Famous Brands. It was also one of the stimuli for the emergence of performance art in China; artists wanted to create work that was anti-materialistic, that could not be bought and sold as part of the art market and that connected with everyday life. The Beijing East Village Artists’ Collective To Add one Metre to an Anonymous Mountain is one of the seminal performance works from this time. Asian art has become a global phenomenon and is now included in world survey exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale and Documenta. It has become increasingly visible and is now represented in major galleries across the globe. There has been a recent surge of interest in contemporary art from Tibet; the Rubin Museum of Art in New York has featured the work of many of the Tibetan artists in this exhibition. Artists such as Gade and Tsewang Tashi are


concerned with reflecting the relationship between consumerism and traditional Tibetan values, the former’s painting in East by South East depicting Ronald McDonald in the traditional pose of the Buddha. Contemporary Japanese artists have collaborated with commercial brands in order to push their visibility further. Both Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami have collaborated with Louis Vuitton, the former to create a series of limited edition handbags and the latter on the edition of Alice in Wonderland featured in this exhibition. Both Murakami and Chiho Aoshima reference popular culture and include references to video games and Manga as a way of exploring a variety of ideas including identity, commerce, branding and culture. In Japan there is a strong overlap between art, fashion, animation and digital graphics, each playing a part in influencing the other. Globalisation and economic expansion have fostered new levels of artistic mobility and many of these artists have studios in art capitals such as New York, London and Berlin as well as East Asia. East by South East features work by artists that have left their homeland and are now permanently resident abroad as well as those of Chinese descent. The British artist Anthony Key creates work that subtly forces us to unpick our assumptions about Chinese culture and the ways that stereotypes are formed, in order to examine our own prejudices. The exhibition features the film Monkey King Creates Havoc in the Heavenly Palace by the performance duo Mad for Real, who both left China to study in London in the 1980s. They use humour and metaphor in their work as a way of exploring the relationship between different cultures from a globalised or diasporic perspective. In artistic terms the boundaries between ‘East’ and ‘West’ are progressively blurring. With the increasing speed and flow of ideas between East and West artistic influence works both ways. It is no longer appropriate to think of artistic influence as moving in one direction only, as was posited in the 1980s. The artwork in East by South East reflects the push and pull of ideas and influences over two decades. Although there is space here to only briefly touch upon a few of the works, we hope you will enjoy exploring them in more depth alongside the other intriguing pieces in the following pages. I would like to thank a number of people without whom this exhibition would not have been possible; Wayne Warren for his knowledge, time, generosity and of course art collection. Katie Hill at OCCA Oxford for her willingness to share her expertise, connections and collection. Tony Scott at China Art Projects for information about many of the artists CAP represent and Zhang Huan for his immediate and warm response to the invitation to show. Emily Glass, Curator


ARTISTS Chiho Aoshima 8 Liu Bolin 10 Lao Dan 12 Dedron 14 Gade 16 Li Gang 18 Gonkar Gyatso 20 Beijing East Village Artists 22 Zhang Huan 24 Anthony Key 26 Yayoi Kusama 28 Kesang Lamdark 30 Luo Brothers 32 Takashi Murakami 34 Mad for Real 36 Nortse 38 Gao Ping 40 Sheng Qi 42 Hu Qinwu 44 Tony Scott 46 Ang Tsherin Sherpa 48 Tsewang Tashi 50 Penba Wangdu 52 Guan Wei 54 Ai Weiwei 56 Wang Wen Ming 58 Zhang Xiaogang 60 Huang Yan 62 Huang Yong Ping 64 Liu Zhuoquan 66 Sponsors 69 Credits 70



Chiho Aoshima City Glow Chiho Aoshima Silkscreen print 2005 Image © OBS Gallery

Chiho Aoshima was born in 1974 in Tokyo, Japan and studied at the Department of Economics, Hosei University, Tokyo. She began her art career working for Takashi Murakami (see page 35) with no formal art training and is now a member of Murakami’s KaiKai Kiki Collective. Her City Glow series conjures a generation from the future where the organic and technological have merged – referencing, gaming and Manga, but also a utopian form of cybernetics, where benign robots do all the work and humans are free to fulfill their creative potential. In this new world, Aoshima suggests, we will encounter beautiful creatures of our own making, and the boundaries between architecture and environment, human and animal will no longer be clear. Aoshima subverts the tradition of the Boy’s Own view of science fiction as a male genre or the techno geek’s sexualised adventure. To a great extent City Glow is a girl’s world, with Aoshima the female Peter Pan, drifting through a haze of beautiful animal familiars. Aoshima merges her world-view with kawaii, the Japanese cult of cuteness known to parents globally through the relentless marketing of characters such as Hello Kitty. In this piece we glide through a sky lit by neon, inhabited by jungle plants and accompanied by a lone bird of paradise. Large phallic girl-buildings protude into the sky and appear to sway in the breeze, or strike poses, catwalk-style. The inhabitants of these carapaces can only be imagined. With similarities to Utopias as disparate as Lang’s Metropolis and Scott’s Blade Runner, Glow world is still this world, made strange, re-presented for us to consider and imagine anew. Aoshima lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Her work has been shown internationally, and recently installed as part of the ‘Art on the Underground’ initiative, at Gloucester Road underground station, London.


Chiho Aoshima


Liu Bolin Hiding in the City no98 - Infoport Liu Bolin Digital colour print 2011 Image courtesy of the Artist

Liu Bolin was born in 1973 in Shandong and lives and works in Beijing. He trained as a sculptor at the Shandong University of the Arts and received his MFA at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Through his series Hiding in the City Bolin has become known as ‘the invisible man’. He made the first piece in 2005 when the government destroyed the artists’ village in suburban Beijing in which he was working. In the last decade more than half of Beijing’s old neighbourhoods have been bulldozed to make way for China’s rapid urbanisation. Bolin painted himself in order to disappear into the rubble, to reflect the difficulty of remaining visible as an individual within the Chinese state. The series Hiding in the City questions whether it is wise to stand out or easier to blend in; visibility brings vulnerability, invisibility protection. Bolin describes the work as ‘social sculpture’ a term coined by the artist Joseph Beuys to mean ‘how we shape the world in which we live’. After selecting a scene for its historic or symbolic significance, he directs a creative team of painters and photographers. Always wearing his Chinese army training uniform, the work can take up to 10 hours to complete, with Bolin standing still for the duration. It has become a multi media event combining performance, painting and photography that he has carried out in cities as diverse as Beijing, New York, London and Milan. The series has become extremely popular with audiences who appreciate the cleverness of the idea, the skill of the execution and the evocation of fun childhood games (such as spot the difference and hide and seek) which contrast with the disturbing context. Liu Bolin has recently created 3 pieces that focus on the London Underground system and the memorial for the 2005 7/7 bombings. These photographs make a statement about the countless ‘invisible’ people moving through the tube station each day and our ability to remember the people who passed away, even if they are no longer visible. Liu Bolin lives and works in Beijing. He has had solo exhibitions in Europe, the US and China.


Liu Bolin


Lao Dan Landscape Lao Dan Chinese ink on paper 2006 Image Š OBS Gallery

Lao Dan (Ren Jie) was born in Beijing, China in 1968 and graduated from China Social University, Graphic Design Department in 1990. He uses the materials and forms of traditional Chinese calligraphy and abstracts them, to produce drawings and paintings that can be read as landscapes or purely gestural works. Chinese calligraphy is an ancient tradition that has influenced art in East Asia and the West. It has been taught for thousands of years, passed down by masters to students learning by rote, copying exactly the forms and strokes. The characters originated with pictograms, resembling the thing they represented. However, these gradually changed, although there are some elements of Chinese characters that retain iconic elements, and their accurate reproduction was of the greatest importance. For Lao Dan, changing calligraphic brushstrokes beyond any sure reading, chaotically blending lines, strokes and wash to create an abstract whole is an act that subverts and challenges tradition. He states that he is not a contemporary artist, and is following a direct line of calligraphic teaching. However, his use of gesture and expression freed wholly from signification is a highly strategic move. In this piece Lao Dan creates a light foreground with a dense, top-heavy background and a horizon of implied vegetation. Scratched pen marks interrupt any sense of flow or lightness and scumbled imprints are built up, adding to the sense of agitated gesture. A Rorschach type blot suggests a figure or agent following an uncertain line of flight. The red seal at the top identifies the author in the traditional style. By using this visual language, Lao Dan reclaims an ancient practice banned by the Cultural Revolution and rejected by most contemporary Chinese artists. By subverting the form he both celebrates his precursors and acknowledges the profound and inescapable changes of the last decades to the foundations of Chinese culture. Lao Dan lives and works in Beijing.


Lao Dan


Dedron Pond Life Dedron Acrylic on canvas 2006 Image © OBS Gallery

Dedron was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1976. She studied at the Art Department of Tibet University (Lhasa). Dedron is inspired by her surrounding environment which she gives a surreal twist. She uses some traditional materials and motifs, but these are translated into a diary like interpretation of her life, peppered with iconic celebrities, art historical figures and everyday subjects. One of her influences is the Guge mural paintings. These 1000-year-old murals of an ancient Buddhist civilization are found in the caves and ruins of the abandoned and mountainous region of Guge, in Western Tibet Dedron does not claim to be a strict Buddhist but she creates images that reflect an idiosyncratic and personal spiritual outlook. It is not hard to understand, looking at her paintings, that she sees within the rivers, mountains and trees that each has their own spirit. When she was a child her family paid homage to a sacred lake in a ceremony every year. It is possible to interpret the hybrid influences of Christian, Buddhist and Western secular culture in the images, which clearly reflect Thangka (traditional scroll) painting, but also have echoes of Klimt, Hundertwasser and Magical Realism.

“Many see Tibet as a sacred place, a mysterious place. To me it’s more like a wonderland full of cartoon images. You see, the buildings here have pitched roofs. People wear brilliant colorful clothes. Everything, even historical events, are told in stories and legends. It’s a wonderland to me.”

Dedron lives and works in Lhasa, Tibet and exhibits internationally.




Gade Untitled Gade Acrylic on handmade Tibetan paper 2009 Image © OBS Gallery

Gade was born in 1971 in Lhasa, Tibet. He studied at the Art Department of Tibet University and the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, Gade has no hesitance in embracing other cultures, having travelled to the Hebrides in 2003 to undertake an artist’s residency at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Centre in Uist. This gives some sense of the ambition for openness in his work. Gade’s work sets out to inform the world of the profound changes experienced by Tibetans in the last few decades. Using icons of American popular culture – Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, Marvel Superheroes – Gade re-imagines traditional spiritual deities. Mao becomes interchangeable with Batman, or Mickey Mouse, ideologies merge and appear to matter less than the form in which they are packaged. Aside from the irony, there is clearly a serious message about the dangers of losing the depth of spiritual meaning for surface wealth. In this work in the form of a traditional scroll painting, a blissful Ronald McDonald replaces Buddha in a temple flanked by snakes and surrounded by red plumes that look more like intestines than lotus blooms. This Buddha achieves Nirvana through the hamburger nestling at his core, and seems unaware of the threat from two strange mythological creatures perched on his shoulders. Gade lives and works between Lhasa and Beijing. His artworks are featured in private and public collections around the world including the National Art Museum of China, the World Museum Liverpool and The White Rabbit Foundation, Australia.




Li Gang Lost Li Gang Bronze 2006 Image © OBS Gallery

Li Gang was born in Dali Yunnan Province, China
in 1986. He studied at the
Department of Oil Painting, Yunnan Dali Academy, Dali, China and the
 Department of Experimental Art, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. 
 In interviews Li Gang discusses the existential approach he has to making art – engaging with objects in the here and now, through all of his senses, slowly developing a response to visual experience. His approach to making work is transformative, and he talks of using accessible, everyday materials such as found objects, packing tape and cooking oil as materials. He creates a form of alchemy, finding small, insignificant objects and representing them with the kind of attention usually given to complex, heroic subjects. To some extent Li Gang is creating metaphors – as if to say, look, this too is important and will teach us something. This has resonance with the struggles of individuals against great powers, but also with Zen Buddhism and the importance of stillness and attending to humble things. In the various art and squatter districts of Beijing, migrant workers and artists play an ongoing game of hide and run with the authorities and this series of work is a poignant reminder of the human cost of this precarious existence. In this piece Li Gang casts a found shoe in bronze. The lost shoe is a familiar and slightly abject urban phenomenon, abandoned like many historical aspects of Chinese life in the push to modernisation. The shoe is given heightened status here through casting in a material that is synonymous with the Western sculptural tradition. The casting of found or sketched pieces is a familiar strategy for giving weight (literally) to something tentative, partially imagined. The piece has resonances with the Surrealist Andre Breton’s found glove, discarded by Nadja, a disturbed stranger, and kept by Breton as a form of fetish. The wearer of this chic but strangely timeless shoe is invoked, as are imagined stories of how it was lost. Li Gang lives and works in Beijing.


Li Gang


Gonkar Gyatso Om Gonkar Gyatso Mixed Media 2006 Image © OBS Gallery

Gonkar Gyatso was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1961. He studied traditional Chinese painting in Beijing, followed by traditional Tibetan scroll painting (Thangka) in Dharamsala and then gained a scholarship to study art at Chelsea College of Art, London where he completed an MA. Gyatso is known for his work that bridges Eastern and Western culture, often tackling issues of identity, culture, consumerism and mass media.

“The funny thing is that capitalism erodes one side of tradition but, through its desire to grow, promotes another side of culture. People can argue that new, more materialistic culture is less authentic. The problem with modern practice is that its objectification of culture is often exploitative and leaves those who gave birth to the culture at the losing end. On the other side, when religious practice becomes too extreme it can be oppressive. My ideal is a co-existence between the two and I try to reflect that through my work.” www_anthonymeierfinearts_com/Gyatso_Artspace_2012.pdf

Om playfully considers the popularisation of Buddhism in the West. Gyatso depicts this word from the Buddhist chant using hundreds of brightly coloured stickers from popular culture, creating an image that blends commercialism with spirituality and causes his audience to consider two diverse notions of inconography at once. The work questions stereotypical ideas regarding Tibetan culture by combining mass media ‘noise’ with traditional craftsmanship. The other work in the exhibition, My Identity, is a series of 4 photographs that depicts Gyatso’s identity as an artist and reflects upon the contradictions inherent in different cultures. He is shown as a traditional Tibetan painter creating a devotional image of the Buddha, as a Chinese propaganda artist, as a Tibetan in exile in Dharamsala and in his current studio working on a highly abstract mandala. Gyatso lives and works in London and New York and exhibits internationally.


Gonkar Gyatso


Beijing East Village Artists To Add One Metre to an Anonymous Mountain Beijing East Village Artists: Cang Xin, Yingmei Duan, Gao Yang, Ma Liuming, Ma Zhongren, Wang Shihua, Zhang Binbin, Zhang Huan, Zhu Ming, Zu Zhou inkjet print reproduced with permission of Yingmei Duan Image © Yingmei Duan 1995

Beijing East Village became a centre of performance art in the mid 1990s. The artists were all, to a greater or lesser degree, reacting against the state sanctioned styles of painting and sculpture. They rejected the prescriptive, propaganda based government approved styles and instead turned to performance, using site specificity, and their bodies as the media to make time based works. Zhang Huan was instrumental in this group and became known for his provocative and challenging performance works in the 1990s that document his body in extreme states. He was one of the artists in the performance work To Add One Metre to an Anonymous Mountain and he chose the site of the peak of Miaofengshan Mountain to stage it. The participants climbed the mountain, shed their clothes and divided into 4 rows by ascending weight, then lay on top of each other in the form of a pyramid. Zhang Huan has said that the title for the piece reflects the Chinese saying ‘there are always higher mountains behind a high mountain and there are always more capable people beyond a capable person’:

“When we left the mountain it was still the same mountain without any change. Life is full of limitations and failed attempts. We tried to make the mountain higher, but our attempt was futile.”

The piece speaks of the power of collective action to literally move (or subtly adjust) mountains. Although the attempt was ‘futile’ in imagining the humble intervention as creating change within an immutable whole, the work still offers optimism and hope to artists working within an extremely restrictive context.


Beijing East Village Artists


Zhang Huan Zhu Gangqiang No1 Zhang Huan Ash on linen 2009 Image courtesy White Cube © the artist

Zhang Huan was born in He Nan Province, China and studied painting with a BA at He Nan University in 1988 and an MA at Beijing Academy of Fine Arts in 1993. The previous pages include information about Zhang Huan’s work as a performance artist and his work with the Beijing East Village artists. He emigrated to New York in 1988 and afterwards staged performances in countries including Australia, America, Belgium, Sweden, Spain and Japan, establishing his reputation internationally. With a change in China’s political climate he returned to Shanghai in 2005 and set up a studio employing over 100 assistants. This saw a shift in his practice and a change in the mediums he chose to convey his ideas.

Zhu Gangqiang No 1 is one of a series of paintings and sculptures made from ash created from the incense that is ritually burned at Buddhist temples. Buddhism continues to be a major influence in Huan’s work. It formed the philosophical underpinning for his performances and is now embedded in the materials and iconography of his paintings. In Zhu Gangqiang No 1, Zhang celebrates a pig – an animal that survived for 49 days after one of the most serious earthquakes China suffered in 2008. The pig is an immediately recognizable icon – of stubbornness, of basic agricultural survival, and of a Zen understanding that all living beings have meaning and their life or death reflects our own unavoidable mortality. The ash paintings reference photography – conjuring a near past of monochrome media images and controlled memory. The fact that they are produced from ash renders them innately unstable and like memory, prone to distortion. Zhang Huan lives and works in Shanghai and New York, and shows widely across the US, Europe and East Asia.


Zhang Huan


Anthony Key Home II Anthony Key Mixed media 2014 Image © the artist

Anthony Key is of Chinese descent and was born in South Africa, emigrating to the UK with his parents as a child. He gained his BA at WSCAD, Farnham in 1995 and his MA at Brighton University in 1997. He was awarded his PhD in 2005 at Winchester School of Art, Southampton University, where he currently teaches. Key’s multimedia sculpture and installation works are mainly concerned with the experience of Chinese identity in the UK. His work often takes cultural stereotypes and subverts them – as with the iconic Heinz ketchup bottle, which he fills with soya sauce. This seemingly straightforward one liner delivers more when one reflects on the lineage of the simple ketchup bottle. Staple of all greasy spoon cafes and morning fry-ups, the word ketchup is derived from the Chinese ke-tsiap, a pickled fish sauce. It made its way to Malaysia where it became kechap and ketjap in Indonesia. The sauce recipe developed into a tomato based sauce and became popular in the US. The bottle we are now so familiar with was produced by the H J Heinz company run by an American of German descent. So the soy sauce made a very long journey to become traditionally British. Key uses the paradoxical nature of cultural and historical flux to gently pick at the calcified assumptions of mainstream British bigotry. In his large-scale pieces he has used mass produced byproducts of the fast food industry to explore the popular media’s representations of the Chinese. In Home II, Key creates what might at first sight appear as a minimalist sculpture – a primary form, a cylindrical shaped plinth, made using natural material. Look closer and the cylinder is effectively a giant chop-stick formed from thousands of smaller ones. Like a tree, there are 42 rings for each year Key has been in the UK. In China Garden – the interior of a Chinese take-away is reproduced to scale using foil meal containers – the container literally describes and contains the space.


Anthony Key


Yayoi Kusama Pumpkin from Alice in Wonderland 2012 Illustrated book Image © OBS Gallery

Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan. She studied traditional Nihonga painting in Kyoto in 1948. Currently Kusama’s output encompasses a great variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. She makes works on paper featuring semiabstract imagery, soft sculpture (or Accumulations) and famously her Infinity Net paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns. These currently sell at auction for record breaking sums. Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution since 1977 and much of her work has been marked by the repetition of obsessive motifs and a desire to escape from psychological trauma.

“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.” This piece is an illustration from Kusama’s illustrated book of Alice in Wonderland. In this version of Lewis Caroll’s timeless story, the child that tumbles into the vortex is Kusama – all the familiar tableaux and characters appear but so too do the repetitive icons of Kusama’s world. Objects (like the pumpkin in this piece) swirl and lose form, swell and move whilst staying two dimensional. Kusama invites us to see things her way, moving in matrices of webbing, dots, pits and protuberances, a polymorphously perverse playground. This world can become dark, frightening, threatens to overwhelm, then suddenly subsides in waves of colour. Always we are shown how easy and yet complex all our familiar stories can be. This book is part of a limited edition set made for Louis Vuitton and includes a photographic and silk screen self portrait. Kusama has had one woman shows in numerous major museums and galleries internationally and has won a vast array of awards and honors in recognition of her lifetime’s work.


Yayoi Kusama


Kesang Lamdark Awaken the Dark Kesang Lamdark Photograph - Digital 2008 Image Š OBS Gallery

Kesang Lamdark was born in Dharamsala, India, in 1963 and grew up in Switzerland. After apprenticing and working as an interior architect in Switzerland, he studied art at the Parsons School of Design in New York from 1991–95, and received an MFA in 1997 from Columbia University in New York. Lamdark has created pieces where the viewer gazes into a series of cans attempting to see a video screen below. On the screen is footage of Tibetan self-immolaters (people who have set themselves on fire). 131 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and China since 2009. In interviews Lamdark discusses the impossibility for people outside of Tibet to see this in the Western mainstream media, nor to understand what they can see on the internet within, in any coherent context. Photographic prints are made of the view through the cans, with images created through pin holes in the base. The reflections that result are reminiscent of dancing fire. Lamdark has made pieces using different kinds of video content - pornography, politically repressed internet material and popular music. In this piece, Lamdark creates the image of a multi-armed deity using the pin prick technique. Light is photographed coming through the base of the can from the top. Obvious interpretations are of achieving a Western and distorted version of Nirvana through drugs and alcohol. But the piece offers more, exploring the issue of self-immolation, the suppression and commercialization of religion and questions of art, tradition and identity whether national, artistic, or religious. Lamdark’s work has been exhibited in exhibitions in Europe, the US and China. He lives and works in Zurich.


Kesang Lamdark


The Luo Brothers Welcome to the World Famous Brands Luo Brothers Woodblock print, watercolour and laquer on wood 2006 Image © OBS Gallery

The Luo Brothers are Luo Wei Dong (born 1963), Luo Wei Guo (born 1964) and Luo Wei Bing (born 1972). They grew up in Guilin, Guangxi Province, China. In 1987, Wei Dong graduated from Guangxi Art College, and Wei Guo graduated from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Wei Bing graduated from the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts in Beijing in 1997. The Luo Brothers’ practice developed from two main movements in China. The first, known as Yansu, or Gaudy Art, was a form using the traditionally garish colours and motifs of peasant religious and New Year decorations combined with the propaganda paintings and posters of the Maoist regime which appropriated and adjusted this language. The second, Political Pop was a style influenced by Western modernism and the contemporary artist Jeff Koons, whose works were seen in China in the late 80s and 90s. The brothers have produced series of paintings, prints and sculptures engaging with hyper-commercialism and the culture of branding. Whilst not overtly political, the works are concerned with the transformation of the visual landscape of China from blatant propaganda to blatant commercialism. In this piece images once used in political posters – fat healthy babies toting medals for productivity – hold up monolithic Coke and 7up cans against a radiant backdrop of sun rays and lotus flowers. Joy and relief at the freedom of capitalism is expressed in an hysterical explosion of saccharin colours and psychedelic exuberance. The joy is palpable, but the impending hangover is implied, and there is no mistaking the irony. Philosophical depth is exchanged for glossy surface and the Zen approach to compositional space is eliminated in a claustrophobically packed plane filled with consumer disposables in their ozone destroying aura. Symbolic colours and traditional motifs are digitized, and traditional wood and lacquer make way for fibre glass and industrial spray paint, the studio of the masters for the conveyor belt and the assembly line. The team share a typical Chinese courtyard home in the suburbs of Beijing, they are widely collected and exhibit internationally.


The Luo Brothers


Takashi Murakami Superflat Blue Louis Vuitton Takashi Murakami Screenprint 2003 Image © OBS Gallery

Takashi Murakami was born in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan and received his BFA, MFA and PhD from the Tokyo University of the Arts. Murakami is one of the most influential and acclaimed artists to have emerged from Asia in the late twentieth century. His work uses the language of Japanese animation, (or Anime, or Manga) to explore a variety of ideas including identity, commerce, branding and culture. Murakami discusses using anime as a structure for his work because it is a form that is both contemporary and wholly Japanese. Whilst recognisably ‘Western’ in terms of technology, Japan produced the first Japanese animation in 1917 and has had a thriving animation industry since the 1940s. The blocked colours and flat 2-D approach can be traced back to traditional Japanese prints such as Hokusai’s ‘wave’. This woodcut and others were a major influence on the origins of Western modernism at the beginning of the 20th Century. Murakami uses this language within painting, sculpture and commercial branding to explore sexuality, creativity and the exchanges between cultures. Murakami creates iconic characters that can represent aspects of himself and develops this into a form of branding. In creating a brand for himself, Murakami raises questions about art and commerce, the digitizing of social and sexual relationships, and the value of tradition and the modern. He mocks and at the same time embraces the status of the game obsessed otaku, or ‘nerd’ – egotistically summoning adolescent-style fantasies of cutesy avatars and sexually priapic boy heroes. It seems a natural step for Murakami to team up with Louis Vuitton, another globally relentless brand for a different demographic. In this piece, Murakami humourously amends the Vuitton livery, adding colour and implanting some almost foetal, video game type characters that might or might not hatch into something unexpected. Murakami lives and works in Tokyo, Japan and exhibits internationally.


Takashi Murakami


Mad for Real Monkey King Creates Havoc in the Heavenly Palace Mad for Real DVD, 2004 Image © the artists

Cai Yuan and Jian Jun Xi have been living and working in the United Kingdom since the 1980s, having migrated at a moment of rapid change in China when it was opening up to the West. Cai Yuan trained in oil painting at Nanjing College of Art, Chelsea College of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. Jianjun Xi trained at the Central Academy of Applied Arts in Beijing and later at Goldsmiths College, London. They started working as a performance duo in the late nineties with their action Two Artists Jump on Tracey Emin’s Bed (1999) at Tate Britain’s Turner Prize Exhibition. Known as the artistic partnership ‘Mad for Real’, Cai and Xi present pioneering performances and interventions in public spaces. Their work acts as a dynamic dialogue with institutional and cultural power structures, taking the idea of the ready-made and transforming it within contemporary, everyday life and merging artistic action with real situations and environments.

Monkey King Creates Havoc in the Heavenly Palace was produced as a commissioned film and photography work by the British Museum in April 2004. The work was a cultural intervention using the mythological figure of Monkey King, as a metaphor for the transformative power of art. The classical Chinese figure of Monkey is placed subversively amongst the objects in the British Museum and the Museum takes the place of the ‘Heavenly Palace’ as a symbol of power and riches. The work can be seen as an intercultural exploration fusing classical Chinese and contemporary art in a British post-colonial context from a globalised or diasporic perspective. The artistmigrants finding themselves in an alien or exotic environment. Dressed as the Monkey King, Cai and Xi, the ‘Monkey Men’, reinterpret this Chinese cult figure, drawing out broader crosscultural and political meanings through their artistic personas. The performance involves Kung Fu moves, acting, face painting, gesture and movement with voice and sound effects. Mad for Real have created performances in Europe and China, recently at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing and at Pandemonium Finissage, Berlin. Jianjun Xi lives in China and Cai Yuan in the UK.


Mad for Real


Nortse Maybe Nortse Photograph - Digital 2008 Image Š OBS Gallery

Nortse (Norbu Tsering) was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1963. He studied at The School of Fine Arts, Llasa, Tibet and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China. Nortse’s work is concerned with issues that impact on most people in some way, including ecology, commercialism and identity. However Nortse is approaching these issues with specific concern for Tibet and the impact that global capital and Chinese expansion has had on religious and spiritual experience for Tibetans. Tibet has suffered extreme repression and religious intolerance for many decades. It has been important for Tibetans to protect and maintain religious and cultural identity as part of their national survival. At the same time artists such as Nortse wish to live in the present and communicate with the rest of the world, use international languages, and engage with the new. It is this paradox that he explores in works such as Maybe. In this photographic piece, three figures are superimposed, their faces are covered by masks and they are wearing garments representing three different cultural moments. To some extent this work is immediate and literal, but there is more to the exploration of identity than a quick one-liner. For instance, the modes of communication carried by the figures, a prayer drum, a mobile phone and a TV remote, suggest that in the last instance, we all become passive receivers of communication, rather than receivers of God’s wisdom or transmitters of our own. Nortse has exhibited in Tibet, China, the US and Europe.




Gao Ping Untitled Gao Ping Ink on paper 2012 Image © OBS Gallery

Gao Ping was born in Shandong Province, China in 1974. She graduated in 1997 from the Oil Painting Department, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. There is a sense of disassociation in much of Gao Ping’s work. Her tiny beings float on the page and are separated by large areas of space that work as imaginary fields, filled in by the viewer’s imagination. Gao Ping’s visual language consists of empty space, grey washes, monotone drawings of small characters – toys, cars, everyday domestic objects, figures intent on their own internal narratives, or landscapes created from layers of grey-blue wash. She discusses the influences for her melancholy visual language as being as disparate as Ba Da Shanren, a Chinese Shuimohua artist and calligrapher, and Marlene Dumas, a figurative contemporary South African painter living in Holland. Gao Ping is quoted as saying that for Chinese artists the traditions of ink painting are “like the ground under your feet”. She harnesses the freedom and accidental quality of the medium along with a skillful use of space. Much of her work engages with the changes in her hometown of Beijing which she finds disturbing. Although these changes can be understood by a global urban audience – constant redevelopment, the building of high rise offices and faceless corporate monoliths in place of old nieghbourhoods – they have particular significance given the history of change and lack of stability in recent Chinese culture. In this piece, a seemingly very simple doodle of two animals repays greater attention. The characters are on the one hand childlike, insignificant – abandoned toys. But then the composition echoes the placement of figures on a scroll, perhaps on a journey, climbing a mountain, gazing out over mist. The triviality of the figures subverts the traditional heroism of the genre and serves to return the viewer to childhood and the importance of magical objects and characters. Gao Ping currently lives and works in Beijing as a full-time artist and exhibits internationally.


Gao Ping


Sheng Qi Buddha Sheng Qi Acrylic on canvas 2007 Image © OBS Gallery

Sheng Qi was born in 1965 in Anhui Province, China and studied at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Central St Martins, in London. Sheng Qi is one of the earliest proponents of dissident performance art in China. He is perhaps most well known for having cut off the finger of his left hand as a young man. This was as a response to the crackdown on protesters in Tianenmen Square in 1989 when many protesters were arrested, incarcerated and killed. Sheng Qi has said it was the shock he felt at this treatment by the authorities he had previously trusted, that led him into a period of madness. He fled, and chose to live in London because the art galleries had free admission. Using performance, painting, photography and drawing, Sheng Qi’s work primarily engages with the body, and embodied experience. In this series of paintings Sheng Qi’s social and political concerns are filtered through the monochrome language of 1970s press photography, or the red and black of propaganda posters. Aside from the clear symbolism of red drips signifying the blood and suffering of multitudes in the face of oppression, red is the colour of the communist party, of Mao, and of traditional New Year celebrations. Red is the colour that has betrayed its symbolic optimism and hope, but which continues to lift spirits and proclaim a new order of wealth, capital, and suppression of a different kind. In this piece, a sombre Bhudda is sketched in gestural strokes of red and grey. The brushwork is suggestive of smears of blood over a light ground. This is religious statuary, but has a human, flesh–like, almost flayed quality that is highlighted by the lines of black paint allowed to drip over the face. It is possible to imagine that this figure looks down in shame at some wrongdoing or infraction. The traditional symbolic colours are washed away leaving only black and red, hard to read as anything other than blood or a blood red light. Sheng Qi lives and works in London and exhibits internationally.


Sheng Qi


Hu Qinwu Untitled Hu Qinwu Mineral pigment and acrylic on canvas 2008 Image © OBS Gallery

Hu Qinwu was born in Shandong, China in 1969. He graduated from Talan Normal Academy, Shandong in 1990 and from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 2008. Hu Qinwu uses a variety of media and methods in his practice, from oil painting to ink wash, calligraphy and photography. His work is generally abstract, with some elements of text or figuration. Even in the textual works and the photography, readings are obstructed and blurred. Hu Qinwu works with formal concerns, repetition and chance. In his Illumination series, he has used methodology including throwing dice to create dot matrices, lines and systems of marks. Some are clearly arrangements that allude to gaming and chance, perhaps even the binary nature of digital information. But traditional forms seem inescapable in Chinese art. The roll of the dice echoes the casting of bones or coins for the I-Ching, and practices of divination using chance as a medium for meditation. In this piece Hu Qinwu uses an ink-like pigment that appears to be repelled by dots of oily ground – suggesting finger smudges or similar identifying marks washed over by darkness. The dots are arranged in childlike, faltering lines like continuous city lights or cars seen at night from skyscrapers. The unavoidable relationship to scroll painting and calligraphy is invoked, but not overdetermined.

“Previous dots are brushed away and replaced by new ones. This repeated brushing away and re-drawing have bridged the binary oppositional chasm in the process of alternative confirmation and disavowal, so that ‘the right’ and ‘the wrong’ are combined together as one and achieve both visual and mental harmony”.

Hu Qinwu works in Beijing as an artist, photographer and printmaker.


Hu Qinwu


Tony Scott New Health Plan (detail) Tony Scott Mixed media wooden sculpture with electrical devices 2007 Image © the artist

Tony Scott was born in Australia and has lived in Beijing since 2005. He has worked in China and throughout the Asia Pacific Region since 1994 as an artist, curator and director of China Art Projects, which exists to support cultural exchange and artistic dialogue between China, Australia and England. Tony Scott’s work deals primarily with the body, and its location in time and space. Scott explores the differing philosophies of medicine in the East and the West – looking at both as a recipient of esoteric processes that remain distant and unknowable. So-called ‘Western’ medical ephemera are employed in installations that underscore the anthropomorphism of objects as disparate as catheter bags and electrometers. Visions of torture and Hippocratic failure are inherent in these vintage and unstable objects. In these images the ‘Eastern’ medical spectrum doesn’t fare much better, although it appears to offer a more benign approach at times. Discarded acupuncture diagrams are amended and collaged, coloured and superimposed. Another register of meaning appears and resists interpretation. Recognisable body parts are made strange by new matrices of energy and alternative relationships between organs. Both the empirical and the spiritual can fail us when we face mortality. The oscillation between estrangement from the corporeal and the fascination with our own bodies starts to become clear. In interviews, Scott discusses his own health, the “disintegration” of his body in time and in the experience of the traveller - the individual lost amongst the mass without the ability to read signs or understand language. To some extent this speaks of a universal human condition, particularly as we contemplate our mortality from a secular point of view. Given the specificity of Scott’s experience as émigré and cultural interlocutor, his work can be read as autobiographical, and there is pathos in the search for healing and peace.


Tony Scott


Ang Tsherin Sherpa Expressions Ang Tsherin Sherpa Gold leaf, acrylic and ink on paper 2012 Image © OBS Gallery

Ang Tsherin Sherpa was born in Tibet in 1968. Between 1983-1988 he studied traditional Tibetan painting with his father, Master Urgen Dorje Sherpa and then between 1991-1996 he studied Buddhist Philosophy under the tutelage of various Buddhist masters in Nepal. These two influences are explicit in his paintings. Sherpa’s work employs the formal structure of Thangka, or Tibetan Buddhist scroll painting. Traditionally this meant bright pigments in a glue or distemper, on a silk background depicting a Buddha, or sacred deity, in prescribed forms. Tsherin Sherpa became disturbed by the painting of Thangkas for sale to tourists in Nepal where he was working; the scrolls were traditionally religious, used in rituals and regarded as sacred. His unease at this process led him to change the way he made paintings, and he added elements that referred to his ideas about the changes in contemporary Nepalese culture, religion and politics. After he moved to the US, Sherpa began painting on canvas and using different types of iconography. In this piece, the central figure lacks a cohesive body. The figure is a mass of multi-coloured arms and feet ringed with bracelet like snakes. Hands could be considered the ‘making’ part of the body, as well as basic means of social survival – for eating, greeting and gesticulating. There are symbolic gestures that might or might not have traditional religious meaning. The snakes, a Tibetan symbol for overcoming anger, suggest that the crush is benign. Yet from the centre two outstretched hands are reaching, drained of colour and no longer performing any significant symbols other than reaching for help – or heaven, as suggested by the golden top third of the painting. Ang Tsherin Sherpa lives and works in California, USA and has exhibited widely across the US, Asia and Europe.


Ang Tsherin Sherpa


Tsewang Tashi Untitled Tsewang Tashi Oil on canvas 2009 Image © OBS Gallery

Tsewang Tashi was born in 1963 in Lhasa, Tibet. He studied at the Fine Arts Department of the Central University for National Minorities in Beijing and the National College of Art and Design in Norway. Tsewang Tashi is a Tibetan artist who engages with issues of national identity and culture whilst avoiding direct references to traditional Tibetan aesthetics. Tashi’s paintings employ a style reminiscent of US photo-realism, street art and other vernacular styles such as the paintings on hot rod cars and motorcycles, painted propaganda or advertising hoardings. Tashi uses a variety of painterly techniques, including the employment of a kind of flickering light over the faces of his subjects that is recognizably contemporary, urban and populist. This light, which might traditionally be read as spiritual or mystic, is converted through context and subject into everyday experience - light seen through water, the play of tungsten on sweat, the spray can high-light, or digital blue on the face of a rapt gamer. This strategy links to Tashi’s interest in photography and his images of subjects in combinations of traditional and contemporary dress.

“What I pay attention to is to the real people and environment as my source of inspiration. I believe that if contemporary life around us is ignored, real contemporary art cannot be created. I avoid seeking novelty in my works, because a lot of these things are imaginary, or expectations by outsiders who are looking for ‘Shangri-la’ or ‘Savage Culture’. I am living in a real society and have feelings and thoughts as other people in the world. I want to speak as humankind in general.”

Tsewang Tashi is a founding member of the Gedun Choephel Artists’ Guild. He is currently Associate Professor at the Arts Department of Tibet University, publishing and exhibiting internationally.


Tsewang Tashi


Penba Wangdu The Seasons Penba Wangdu Acrylic on canvas 2011 Image Š OBS Gallery

Penba Wangdu was born in Shigatse, Tibet, in 1969. He studied at Tibet University, taught at the Lhasa Normal School and began teaching at the Art Department of Tibet University in 1994. In 2000, he studied at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, where he specialized in mural painting. Penba Wangdu is a master of Tangka (traditional scroll) painting. He trained in traditional and contemporary arts and practices in both genres. In his Tangka painting he continues to work as a master teacher, creating works that repeat centuries old motifs aided by his advanced students, in a system reminiscent of the Renaissance workshop. In his contemporary work, he has allowed himself to move away from prescribed and sacred practices to explore the profane but very human arena of earthly delights. He is one of the few living artists who continue to use traditional stone ground minerals. He portrays lovers entwined, their flesh rolling out over the picture plane, at once innocent and carnal. In representing human sin in the form of twisted flesh, he suggests the contortions of the mind created by a less than mindful indulgence. In this piece a white lotus flower refers to purity of the mind and the spirit. In traditional Tibetan symbolism the pink lotus flower represents the historical legends of the Buddha. The clouds represent peace and unity between dualities, and the green represents calm and the resolution of jealousies. However, the image is from a series that presents these symbolic elements as seasonal, and the motifs that are traditionally marginal in ancient scrolls are enlarged and foregrounded, as if cropped from their context. Penba Wangdu lives and works in Lhasa, Tibet and exhibits internationally.


Penba Wangdu


Guan Wei Tracking Down Ned Kelly No 3 Guan Wei Acrylic on rice paper 2004 Image © OBS Gallery

Guan Wei was born in 1957 in Beijing, China and studied at the Department of Fine Arts at Beijing Capital University. Guan Wei is a Chinese artist whose education and development were affected by the adverse impact of the Cultural Revolution. His parents were both members of the Beijing Opera and descendents of the Imperial Manchu dynasty. Guan Wei was taught traditional calligraphy by his father, and learnt the institutionally acceptable styles of Social Realism and propagandist painting while at University. However, as a young student in the 1980s he was part of the new wave of Avant Garde Chinese artists that drew on newly available influences as disparate as Dada and Zen Buddhism. Guan Wei’s work uses a hybrid visual form, a balance of old and new to tell stories that have been described as “bridges across which dialogues between different cultures can take place.” In this piece, Guan Wei creates a sense of menace literally overlaying traditional visions of calm and bucolic tranquility. Heaven is disturbed and threatened by forces – whether of aggression or defense is open to interpretation, but these are blots on the landscape, which have their sights on destroying the peace. The historical myth making of Ned Kelly – the archetypal outlaw and Australian folk hero – is encompassed and re-presented in the context of a Chinese scroll landscape (his silhouette appears in the bottom left of the image). But in this case the forces of repression seem omnipotent and certain to prevail. guan_wei/essay.html

Guan Wei lives and works in Beijing and Sydney. His work is collected and exhibited widely in Australia and internationally.


Guan Wei


Sunflower Seeds Ai Weiwei Hand painted porcelain 2010 Image © OBS Gallery

Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing. He studied at the Beijing Film Academy and on moving to New York (1981–1993) studied at the Parsons School of Design.

“Art is a tool to set up new questions.” UK audiences became aware of Ai Weiwei’s artistic practice in 2010 with his Sunflower Seeds installation in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern. For that work Ai Weiwei employed 1,600 ceramic workers from the district of Jingdezhen to make the tiny porcelain pieces, millions of which were used in the installation. The piece to some extent confounds western ideas of mass production; Ai Weiwei chose an area where there is unemployment and bankruptcy due to the old methods of artisan craft fading and new manufacturing systems taking over. The people in the towns and villages Ai Weiwei employed still worked by hand. In the film Never Sorry Ai Weiwei discusses the relationship of sunflowers to recent political history. He explains that in propaganda paintings Mao Zedung was often represented surrounded by sunflowers. This implied he was the sun, and his warmth and ideas would nourish the Chinese people. In spreading the floor of the Tate Gallery with these tiny artifacts and inviting people to walk all over them, pick them up and play with them, Ai Weiwei invites us to consider their making, the lives of everyday Chinese people and perhaps the difference between one small life and a mass of individuals. In picking up a seed or two and considering who painted it and the gulf between the maker and the person holding the seed, we are encouraged to use these objects, interact with them, and, as Ai Weiwei says, use them as tools for asking ourselves new questions. Ai Weiwei lives and works in Beijing and exhibits internationally. He won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards in 2008 and the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation, New York in 2012. He was made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2011. unilever-series-ai-weiwei-sunflower-seeds


Ai Weiwei


Wang Wen Ming Sunflower No 2 Wang Wen Ming Woodcut 1993 Photograph He Qi, Image © the artist

Wang Wen Ming was born in 1955. He studied at the Printmaking Department of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, China. He is a Professor of Postgraduate Studies at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and the Director of the Guangdong Artists’ Association. Wang Wen Ming creates stark, expressive woodcuts that reference a journey through the Modern Chinese period. In the 1930s, the liberal writer and social critic, Lù Xùn, called for a new form of woodcut that could create a narrative form clear enough for uneducated people to understand, but expressive enough to combine the aesthetic strengths of ancient Chinese printmaking and modernist European strategies. Answering this call, the Creative Print Movement combined the ancient and modern and Eastern and Western values, with the vernacular folk art tradition of Nanhua, or New Year posters – exuberant celebrations of the new year printed in brightly coloured inks using wooden blocks. For decades Nanhua were the most common form of household decoration in China. During the Cultural Revolution and the return to Social Realism this exciting new hybrid style of narrative illustrative images were turned into a much more rigid style for the instruction of the masses. In the work of Wang Wen Ming these influences are implicit rather that explicit. In this piece three sunflowers invoke both the use of bright sunflowers to surround Mao in propagandist posters, and the melancholic, desiccated sunflowers of a Van Gogh landscape. The figure is gouged out of an emptied background and stands with its way barred by the almost anthropomorphic plants. Wang Wen Ming’s professed interests are stone reliefs from the Han dynasty tombs, Chinese rock cave murals, as well as traditional painters and illiterati Zhu Da and Huang Binhong. He also cites Van Gogh and Giacometti as Western influences. Wang Wen Ming has had many solo exhibitions in China and has won numerous awards. His work is currently being shown at the Guandong Art Museum, China.


Wang Wen Ming


Zhang Xiaogang My Dear Friend Zhang Xiaogang Lithograph on paper 2005 Image © OBS Gallery

Zhang Xiaogang was born in 1958 in Kunming, Yunnan province, China and studied at the prestigious Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts in Chongqing. He was inspired to begin work on his ‘Bloodlines’ series by a newly found photograph of his mother as a relaxed and pretty young woman, rather than the distressed and ill mother he remembered...

“I felt very excited, as if a door had opened. I could see a way to paint the contradictions between the individual and the collective and it was from this that I started really to paint. There’s a complex relationship between the state and the people that I could express by using the Cultural Revolution. China is like a family, a big family. Everyone has to rely on each other and to confront each other. This was the issue I wanted to give attention to and, gradually, it became less and less linked to the Cultural Revolution and more to people’s states of mind.”

Delicate ‘bloodlines’ traced from figure to figure within Xiaogang’s paintings can be seen as representations of different experiences of ‘family’; national, political, emotional or intellectual. The repetitive iconography of formal portraits, of uniform and homogenous beings, is undermined by small differences in dress and hair. Stains of colour which seep into the monotone paintings, suggest either wounds, or the eruption of new life; a subversion of the old order. Xiaogang explores community and individuality, sameness and difference, creating a haunting family of ghosts. Zhang Xiaogang moved to Beijing, China and now has studios in Beijing and Chengdu. His work has appeared in numerous significant international exhibitions.


Zhang Xiaogang


Huang Yan Bone China Huang Yan Painted porcelain 2004 Image Š OBS Gallery

Huang Yan graduated in 1987 from Changchun Normal University in Jilin, China. Huang Yan is a multi-media artist particularly known for his series of painted landscapes on the human body. The use of the body in Chinese art is an extremely recent phenomena, signaling the beginning of a break from tradition and prescribed political art with the performance art of the 1980s. Huang Yan has worked with his wife, Zhang Tiemei, to create the paintings on various people and body parts. The forms and symbols used reference traditional landscape painting from the Song dynasty, considered as the “most Chinese� style of painting. Huang Yan reinvents the traditional Chinese practice of rote learning as homage to a master. The work has resonance with post-modern ideas relating to the mass production of imagery that loses its aura, or anchorage to traditional meanings and context. This idea is prevalent in the silk screen prints of the artist Andy Warhol who he names as an influence. Art, celebrity, news and commercial product are interchangeable, and symbolic meaning becomes submerged in surface. As with the continuous repetition of a word, meaning is lost, or changed beyond recognition. This piece is from a series of works on non-traditional surfaces - bones, meat, skin. Bones are directly painted on or cast in porcelain, motifs are painted and fired onto the ceramic, creating an object which is waste product, art piece, ancient and modern, historical and post-modern. The work creates a contemporary version of the ceramics that made their way to Europe throughout the era of the Opium Wars and colonial trade, and that influenced European artists and designers over centuries. Huang Yan has lived and worked in Beijing since the early 90s and has exhibited regularly in Asia, America and Europe.


Huang Yan


Huang Yong Ping Every Part of This Shoe is Good Huang Yong Ping Mixed Media 2008 Image © OBS Gallery

Huang Yong Ping graduated in 1982 from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhoue. In 1986 he formed Xiamen Dada. After graduating from CAFA, Huang Yong Ping immersed himself in the writings and thought of Duchamp, Cage, Beuys and Wittgenstein, filtering the ideas informing Western PostModernism through ancient Chinese beliefs including Taoism and Buddhism. Following these influences, and using traditional forms of meditation, gambling and philosophy, he became determined to remove all intention form his work, giving it over to chance. He created a form of roulette wheel with I-Ching (or book of changes) hexagrams around the points of the wheel. Similar to a Western ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Huang Yong Ping would spin the wheel and create elements of painting or sculpture according to the advice of the hexagram, creating work motivated by chance or fate. This series of work can be interpreted as allegorical. To some extent the objects that individually signify specific things are seemingly arbitrarily grouped in his installations. In his Bat Project of 2005, bats hang in the wrecked cockpit of a US spyplane that caused a diplomatic furore when it crashed into a Chinese jet. To a Chinese audience, bats mean good luck – to a Western audience, bats invoke the uncanny. This piece recalls Wittgenstein’s ideas of the failure of language with a humorous play on words – ‘Every Part of This Shoe is Good’ is a one liner that takes the rise out of advertising hyperbole, whilst referencing manufacturing, art, commercialism and the idea of the found object as art. Huang Yong Ping is one of the best-known Chinese artists working in the West. He has studios in Paris and Fujian province in southern China and exhibits internationally. He represented France at the 1999 Venice Biennale.


Huang Yong Ping


Liu Zhuoquan Medicine Chest Liu Zhuoquan Mixed Media 2010 Image © OBS Gallery

Liu Zhuoquan was born 1964, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

“What I care about more is the feeling when an image or an object is trapped in a space. It may be seen as what it is - a container or it may be seen as a prison or a wronged ghost being cursed. At the same time, it can be a memory or an unsettling dream. Transparency and air tightness of bottles, as well as how bottles are commonly used and consumed are all part of the reasons why I choose them”.

Liu Zhuoquan’s works uses an ancient Chinese technique – ‘inside painting’, which was traditionally used for painting motifs on the inside of snuff bottles with a bent handle with a very thin, long brush. The tradition lasted up until the Cultural Revolution, when it was outlawed along with other forms of cultural production. After the liberalization and opening up of China, the form was revived for the tourist trade, and Liu Zhuoquan became skilled in the art.



Liu Zhuoquan

In this piece Liu Zhuoquan creates a framework similar to a bathroom cabinet or chemist’s shelf. A number of bottles, painted from within with detailed, brightly coloured images, imply that a foetus, a wounded hand, a severed finger, a diagram of a male torso and several insects, float enclosed within the bottles. On the lowest shelf, fitting snugly, is a red wooden box painted with a white cross. The box is the first aid box used by the artist’s father during the Cultural Revolution, and this gives the motifs on the bottles additional meaning. The piece fits within a larger proposed installation of 100,000 bottles. Ultimately the sheer scale of the project conjures up the millions of tiny elements disrupted and cut asunder from their context by the Cultural Revolution, and it points towards the task of repositioning and making meaning of these images and memories in the present. Liu Zhuoquan currently lives and works in Beijing, China. His work is collected and exhibited internationally.


Sponsored by


Hyundai Corporation is one of Korea’s leading trading companies. We have 43 branches overseas, talented people and global financing ability. We utilize these strengths to engage in global trade, distribution and overseas infrastructure development. Hyundai Corporation is also committed to building a ‘cooperative society’ by participating in various charitable events, and also through producing shows and performances to make positive contributions to our society. We actively participate in social welfare foundations; supporting the Home Country Visit for International Families program, which provides transportation, services and support to international families in Korea. Furthermore, we provide voluntary services to people in need in our community. Moreover, Hyundai Corporation has been a pioneer in developing and supporting cultural events in Korea. Our activities include sponsoring foreign exhibitions, new and upcoming writers and concerts for talented domestic and foreign musicians. Hyundai Corporation will endeavor to maintain its focus in fulfilling its responsibilities as a global trading company. We will continue our contributions to the development of global culture and art. Through these contributions, Hyundai Corporation is helping to create a better world for tomorrow.

With thanks to








OBS Gallery Tonbridge School High Street Tonbridge Kent TN9 1JP 01732 365555

Catalogue Written by Julia Defferary Edited by Emily Glass Designed by Michael Lenz at Draught Associates Printed by Windsor Exhibition Curated by Emily Glass and Wayne Warren Audience Development Manager: Nicola Masters Exhibitions Intern: Verity Hunt

Acknowledgments We are grateful for the support of many individuals who contributed to the exhibition and catalogue as follows: Our lead sponsor, Hyundai Corporation Janine Brent Charlotte Chisholm Patrick Duffy at Kay Mounting Melissa Digby-Bell at Scream Katie Hill at OCCA Wong Huihui Eli Klein at Klein Sun Ian Lucas Lorna Phinn Frances Potter Tony Scott at CAP White Cube, Bermondsey


Š OBS Gallery 2014


East by South East brings together the work of 30 contemporary artists from China, Tibet, Japan and the UK. Using a wide range of media, they explore themes that include their relationship with tradition, identity and the impact of the social and political context upon their lives and work. Chiho Aoshima Liu Bolin Lao Dan Dedron Gade Li Gang Gonkar Gyatso Beijing East Village ARTISTS Zhang Huan Anthony Key Yayoi Kusama Kesang Lamdark Luo Brothers Takashi Murakami Mad for Real



Nortse Gao Ping Sheng Qi Hu Qinwu Tony Scott ANG Tsherin SherpA Tsewang Tashi Penba Wangdu Guan Wei Ai Weiwei Wang Wen Ming Zhang Xiaogang Huang Yan Huang Yong Ping Liu Zhuoquan

Profile for Tonbridge School

East by south east catalogue  

OBS Gallery September – November 2014

East by south east catalogue  

OBS Gallery September – November 2014