The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery is pleased to present the work of Geng Jianyi, Huang Ran, and Zhang Peili as part of the city-wide project, Yellow Signal: New Media in China. Initiated by Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, this series of exhibitions and programs is the first comprehensive presentation of contemporary Chinese new media and video art in Canada. It showcases a selection of leading new media works by internationally acclaimed Chinese artists.
This project is compelling for its portrayal of current political circumstances faced by many artists in China. “Yellow Signal is a metaphor for the communal state of ambiguity in Asian countries,” explains Zheng Shengtian, BC-based artist, curator, and internationally recognized scholar and expert on contemporary Chinese art. He further explains, “Yellow Signal is about limitation and possibility, choice and chance, confusion and self-confidence. Feelings that many Asian artists experience, but that artists everywhere may also relate to in their creative practice.”
This exhibition features a video by Huang Ran titled Blithe Tragedy (2010), a work that questions the relationship between beauty and horror and the power of images. The video presents scenes of intense struggle, emotion, and violence. At the same time, the attention to detail in the costumes, the slowly tracked footage, and the editing of the scenes create highly aesthetic, beautiful imagery that draw the viewer into complex, open-ended narratives. The viewer is prompted to wonder about the power of the visual, despite its obvious fantastical or beautiful elements, to obscure the underlying realities of the narratives and of contemporary society.
Huang Ran (b. 1982) is one of the most interesting young artists to emerge in China. Since graduating from Goldsmiths College, University of London (2007), he has participated in many international group and solo exhibitions. In 2011, Huang received the Credit Suisse Today Art Award from the Today Art Museum in Beijing. Huang Ran lives and works in London and Beijing.
Presented at the Belkin Art Gallery and Walter C. Koerner Library, Excessive Transition (2008) by Geng Jianyi is a series of large and small black-and-white photographs of everyday objects from the artist’s life. Geng uses techniques to create semi-transparent, abstract, and eerie subtle effects that have been equated with ideas about the withdrawal of the individual. He also employs methods such as mark-making and frottage to manipulate the idea of what is evidenced in photographs. Though Geng’s work is not easily defined, Excessive Transition follows his concerns of self-effacement and the dissolution and disappearance of identity in a culture that is undergoing change.
Geng Jianyi (b. 1962) is a foundational figure in contemporary Chinese art and was part of the artistic collective known as Chi She (Pool Association) and a major participant in the ’85 New Wave Movement. Using a wide range of media, his work is often known for its stark simplicity and concerns about personal identity and individuality in the context of a larger collective.
Zhang Peili’s large-scale, multimedia installation A Gust of Wind (2008) is a meditation on the unpredictable forces that threaten ideas of the stability of middle-class domestic life. We see a living room in ruin and the process of its destruction is seen from multiple perspectives on large video screens. It starts with a curtain that flutters in a breeze that steadily swells into a crescendo and tears apart the interior, toppling the shelves and upending the furniture until eventually the roof collapses. A Gust of Wind brings up ideas about the life cycle of disaster and renewal and the fickle nature of economic progress.
Considered the most important video artist in China, Zhang Peili (b. 1957) was a member of the ’85 New Wave Movement and his work has been concerned with prompting emotional responses from the viewer as a way to generate many interpretations. He is known for the use of lengthy stationary shots that focus on acts that are seemingly devoid of any particular significance and on repetitive human gestures that are often taken for granted. Recently, Zhang’s interest has been to distort the messages of war and propaganda film by editing found footage of dying communist heroes and celebration ceremonies.
Yellow Signal: New Media in China is initiated by Centre A: Vancouver International Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Zheng Shengtian, in collaboration with Charles H. Scott Gallery at Emily Carr University, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Pacific Cinémathèque, Republic Gallery, Surrey Art Gallery, and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
We thank Walter C. Koerner Library at the University of British Columbia for participating in this exhibition.
A special issue of Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Asian Art will accompany the project Yellow Signal: New Media in China. It will include images of the works in the exhibitions, essays, and interviews by Daina Augaitus, Britta Erickson, Diana Frendl, Gao Shiming, Alice Ming Wai Jim, Barbara London, Karen Smith, and Zheng Shengtian.
We gratefully acknowledge the generous support of JNBY Art Projects, the Canada Council for the Arts, and our Belkin Curator’s Forum members.
For further information please contact: Jana Tyner at firstname.lastname@example.org,
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