Sunday, July 8, 2007
Creative Work Space
Near where I live is Factory 798, an abandoned Soviet-era weapons factory where artists have taken over many of the high-ceilinged spaces to showcase their work.
Some areas have fallen into disrepair which in a way is part of the charm of this bohemian arts community. And some galleries and cafes are chic with their clean cement floors and stylish flower arrangements on the tables.
But back to the art. Some range from the bizarre - one performance artist by the name of Dai Guangyi was pictured hanging upside down and used his hair as a brush, to poignant, black and white photographs capturing the lives of Tibetan farmers by photographer Lu Nan.
The prices of the artwork weren't listed. One gallery had two prints by Yue Minjun - known for his pink cartoonish laughing faces. Each one was going for 40,000RMB (US$5,262). I guess that's relatively cheap as his work is fetching high prices at auctions.
So I was on the hunt for the next Yue Minjun, but the place was so large and not every gallery was open on a Sunday that nothing really did strike me. But then again I'm no art appraiser either.
What was interesting to see was that these artists, mostly in their 30s and 40s were fascinated with Chairman Mao, the Mao suit, contrasting Communism with commercialism, repression and sexuality. These were the themes in many of the pieces I saw.
One artist named Yi Deer showcased photographs of himself covered in gold paint and wearing a gold Mao suit and sunglasses. His exhibition called "The flagman in Golden Fairytale", showed him standing in a forest, standing atop an abandoned State-owned factory, or sitting by a statue of Mao.
Another, Liu Liguo, has an obsession with bums. His porcelain works had a giant plate filled with small peaches and in the middle was a pair of bum cheeks. Or a vase of flowers with an ass sticking out of it. Frivolous and sexual... or is it sensual?
Perhaps these artists are trying to show us how fast Chinese society is moving away from its original values of socialism and Communism, in some ways mocking it, and in others pushing the boundaries of self-expression.