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Art in the mountain city

Popularity 4Viewed 1721 times 2014-4-16 16:10 |Personal category:Chongqing life|System category:Life| mountain, art, Chongqing

Last Sunday I went to Chongqing Art Museum (重庆美术馆), a newly-opened strikingly-designed building in Jiefangbei (解放碑), one of Chongqing's city centres. I went there because of my own personal curiosity but also because I was planning a lesson on art for my Senior 2 students and I thought that I should supply them with information about the art available to them in their own city.

The exhibition that I saw was a collection of works by French artists and Chinese artists who had been inspired by French art in some way; many of them had lived or studied in France. Rémy Aron, the president of ChiFa, the organisation that organised the exhibition, wrote in the foreword to the exhibition the following: “Chinese artists have a peculiar attraction to France. For them Paris represents the city of the permanence and the continuity of Western culture and Europe's centre of gravity.” I agree with him as I think that France has a very visible cultural influence in China. For example, the Eiffel Tower is probably one of the most reproduced images that you see in China: it adorns everything from T-shirts to my students' notebooks. France represents sophistication and fashion. Thus I can see why it is a place for Chinese artists to gravitate towards and be inspired by.

The exhibition featured many impressive and diverse works of art and it was such an enjoyable experience to wander round the gallery and appreciate them all. When I visited Taiwan during Spring Festival earlier this year, I stumbled across an exhibition by the Taiwanese painter Chen Huikun (陈慧坤). Chen studied in France and when he returned home he started painting landscapes, birds and other traditional Chinese artistic subjects in a European-influenced rather than traditional Chinese style. A lot of the paintings in this exhibition also approached familiar Chinese subjects from a European-influenced style, and I loved the way that the artists were able to draw on and express a variety of traditions in their work.

A few of the artists particularly stood out to me so I will give them a brief mention here. Fei Zheng (费正) paints scenes that vividly captured the bustle of Chinese open-air markets and people's daily life lived close together. Visiting Chinese markets, buying vegetables and chatting with the stall-owners is something I really enjoy so I could relate to his work a lot.

Duan Zhengqu's (段正渠) dimly-lit paintings featured round-faced and slightly ghostly characters that existed in a world of books and old-fashioned rooms. They really had spirit, being both fun and childlike and a little disturbing at the same time.

Wang Yishi (王以时), who was born in Chongqing, drew and painted lively and colourful cartoon figures that were often characters from Chinese classics such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义) and Journey to the West (西游记). His pictures were also bursting with text, as lines of his distinctive calligraphy added to the storytelling.

I'm so pleased that Chongqing is hosting this brilliant exhibition. It's certainly comparable to the art that I saw in the galleries that I visited in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei during my Spring Festival travels, and these cities have a much more developed art scene compared to Chongqing. The gallery is free and it was busy on the day that I went, with lots of families walking around. Parents were holding up their young children so that they could get a clear view of the paintings. It's a great thing for Chongqing to have a large art gallery like this that is both strongly promoting Chinese art and also art that is international in its scope.

I think that Chongqing should be proud that it is changing and not just becoming a place that is more international in terms of its consumption of material goods (Jiefangbei is filled with shops selling foreign luxury brands like Louis Vuitton) but that it is becoming more globalised in terms of its consumption of culture. The significant thing is that this culture is reflective of both China, and how it is changing, and other countries. Thus it has strong roots in where it is displayed but also introduces non-Chinese influences. For many people in Chongqing I can imagine that Chongqing Art Museum might be the first art gallery that they have ever visited. I hope that it is not their last, and that it is the first of many visits to this gallery in particular.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Comment Comment (5 comments)

Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-16 23:29
The beginning couple of sentences were challenging! Needs a tidy up    The art exhibition sounds great!
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-17 10:57
Changing Chongging challenges current conceptions of Chinese culture.     I just fancied an alliteration this morning!
Reply Report teamkrejados 2014-4-17 11:07
ChongQing is a great city! Thanks for the info about the new museum. Have a great day!
Reply Report AlexisFW85 2014-4-17 13:50
Thanks for sharing some information about different Chinese artists. I look forward to reading more about them, looking at their work and researching whether or not I can find anything of theirs in Beijing exhibits! :)
Reply Report 财神 2014-4-18 06:24
feeling cool ma?

facelist doodle Doodle board

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