Disillusion or re-birth in Chinese art

an addition to my previous post China at the Venice Art Biennale (no55)’

It came as a comment to my previous article, or so it sounded to my ears. I was listening to the radio and the presenter read an extract from Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Capricorn”; the part that says about the fantasy of Jesus surviving the cross and coming out of his torture as a different man; not willing to give his life for humanity but wanting to live life instead. This disillusion and re-birth mostly happens after the turbulence of the early youth; allowing death (not the final one) to happen is a prerequisite. We mostly hold-on to the ghost, etc. All this is written in Miller’s books, no need to add to it.

We can certainly not talk about youth when thinking of China as a country but the works shown in Venice do not have the allure of an aged spirit either. Can we talk about a re-birth after years of turbulence, or a disillusion caused by the contact (and even more the involvement) with the West and expressed as a neglect or even dismay to anything more than the appearances?

It can very well be that China’s idiom in contemporary art lies at that cold yellow or at the oversized portraits; and that it is on us to decipher it (and we should be fast before conceptualism hits us from the East this time). If not clear till now, let me say it once more: I find art from Asia, and particularly from China, the most interesting episode of contemporary art scene, that is why I regret to have the feeling that their effort is to reach our standards; that is a waste of time and refers only to the market. That said, there is also a chance that the real thing does not pass the borders because of not meeting exactly those standards; something that would be a great pity considering the huge production happening and the ideal momentum for the artists; not to be wasted for the sake of commercialism.

“I felt exactly like Jesus Christ would have felt if he had been taken down from the cross and not permitted to die in the flesh. I am sure that the shock of crucifixion would have been so great that he would have suffered a complete amnesia as regards humanity. I am certain that after his wounds had healed he wouldn’t have given a damn about the tribulations of mankind but would have fallen with the greatest relish upon a fresh cup of coffee and a slice of toast, assuming he could have had it.” Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn, 1939

P.S. A comprehensive review of China’s presence in Venice this year can be read here by Richard Vine

large gray-scale portraits by Xu Weixin
large gray-scale portraits by Xu Weixin

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