About: The New Classic of Mountains and Seas
A Qiu Anxiong Solo Exhibition
Dates: 30 May – 30 June
Time: Tuesday – Sunday 11:00 – 18:00
Opening: 30 May, 17:00-18:00
Place: Boers-Li Gallery, Caochangdi No. A-8
Boers-Li Gallery is pleased to announce that Qiu Anxiong will be featured in the next solo exhibition in the main space, Gallery I. Entitled About: the New Classic of Mountains and Seas; the exhibition will open to the public on 29 May and run through late June. This exhibition will compile and organize the diverse work and archival material related to the artist’s reinterpretation of the Classic of Mountains and Seas, the literary bestiary from the classical Chinese tradition. Works on display at Boers-Li will include two animations, oil paintings, woodblock prints, ink painting, sketches, and annotations on the original text.
Qiu Anxiong, born in 1972 in Chengdu and currently based in Shanghai, investigates the relationship between the ancient and contemporary within the world of Chinese aesthetics. His rigorous engagement with multiple narratives of art history, stemming from his time simultaneously studying oil painting and ink composition in Germany, allow him a unique perspective on the synergy of contemporary global culture. This project creates a dreamlike alternative present that emerges from a classical literary tradition in order to present a weighty critique of current environmental degradation, brutal development, and human imperialism.
As a whole, this project rewrites the Classic of Mountains and Seas to include new creatures that stand in for modern technology: bulldozer as frogs, aircraft carriers as floating islands, bomber jets as headless birds, cars as tortoises, and satellite-bearing antelopes. These figures reappear throughout the project in both narrative and documentary form, offering iconic touchpoints that both connect contemporary art to its art historical predecessors and allow for immanent critique of the evolving societies that produce this art.
In the first New Classic of Mountains and Seas animation, Qiu Anxiong takes history itself as his medium. Composed of a multitude of ink-wash paintings, the video reflects on the equality of alienation in the face of urbanizing society and in the face of nature. Although the visual experience borders on the absurd, the work functions as a mimetic description of macroscopic social trends filtered through the focus of an individual perspective.
In conjunction with this first animation, the artist also produced a publication compiling a series of creatures in his version of the Classic of Mountains and Seas. These drawings later developed through a series of sketches and textual descriptions into a series of 10 woodblock prints, which are also shown in this exhibition. Scenes derived from the narrative animations are also altered and reproduced in oil paintings, presenting ominous figures bearing down on the viewer. A map, also derived from the original Classic of Mountains and Seas, locates all of these new, hypermodern figures geographically.
The centerpiece of this new exhibition is New Classic of Mountains and Seas II, a second part of Qiu Anxiong’s animation series. Presented in the same format as its predecessor, the video presents a series of narratives including the flooding of a polluted valley for a new dam, a slaughterhouse for cattle, the genetic alteration and breeding of sheep, and the colonization of rocky planets floating through space. In each of these cycles, the artist’s imagined beasts are interspersed with robots and more prosaic livestock including sheep and cows, forcing the animation an awkward temporal space that could perhaps best be described as a dreamscape of the present.
Presenting repeated images of DNA, described as the fetish object of contemporary theory, via the medium of ink painting, the fetish object of Chinese art history, the animation is simple to comprehend without allowing for the vindication of the viewer. These images are deeply critical of the social system that produces them, calling for a realignment of social value. The exploration of the classical literary tradition entailed by referring to the Classic of Mountains and Seas requires a willingness to reexamine methods of empirical investigation and classification; like the anonymous authors of the original text, Qiu Anxiong imagines and describes, invents and captures.
By altering a literary system that has changed continuously and drastically since it first appeared, Qiu Anxiong brings a historically specific method of bricolage informed by globalized art practice to another cultural form; this temporal “other” is also drawn into contemporary discourse, allowing for a new phase of intertextual influence.
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