A Landscape To Be Perceived Or Penetrated:
The Sixth Shenzhen Exhibition of Contemporary Sculpture
By Feng Boyi
“Landscape” is a temporal but complete dynamic system that is formed by the interplay of geographical, biological and cultural fields. The concept of contemporary landscape design involves the disciplines of geography, ecology, gardening, architecture, culture, art, philosophy and aesthetics. As an integrated concept that includes nature and humanistic qualities, “landscaping” crosses disciplinary boundaries and conventional modes of thinking, which requires establishing common grounds with other fields.
China is currently in an era of “Great Leap” modernization, where development and change are celebrated as the main themes of the time. The challenges a transitional China faces are all kinds of social problems and phenomena brought up along with its economic booming. On the one hand, the conflicts between social groups of different interests created by the free market economy cannot be settled within the current political frame. On the other hand, such development and change also generate conflicts between our ecological environment and us. The impact of modernization on human life is especially embodied in the worshipping of the subject’s unrestrained power, and the unrestricted developing of natural resources, which, ironically, provides the very ground for modernization. When modernization approaches us with great temptation along with ultimate danger, what it holds high in its hand is the very flag of science. What the scientific values guarantee us is that science provides nothing but truth, which is trans-cultural, without nationalistic or class bias, and is timeless. It is this type of concept that provides the philosophical ground for cultural unification. The key issue today is the very fact that China’s “Great Leap” modernization is going “out of control”.
“Out Of Control” is also the theme of this exhibition, which is an implication of the current situation of “crisis”. The impulse for an artist’s creation comes from the conflict he or she experiences between reality and the artist’s inner world. It is an examination of the artist’s humanist concerns and values, which reside deep in the visual images with spiritual tension. The reality that Chinese artists are facing is the hyper developing economy, which impacts and overturns conventional life and ideas. Ideals of tranquil and peaceful life that have developed from the old life style of past generations are now increasingly at odds with reality, and are swiftly retreating into historical background. Conflicts and pressures are apparent. On the one hand, people aspire for better life, more convenient urban facilities and modern consumerist culture; on the other hand, with unexpected issues and possibilities emerging in the process of modernization, people from different interest groups are experiencing a strong sense of loss in different levels, aspects, qualities and values. Cultural diversity is also in danger of diminishment as old urban and country cultures are both under some kind of “squeezes” and old lifestyle with its cultural spirit and ethical principles are under unprecedented impact. The significance of such impact lays in the fact that it is destroying, though quietly, many spiritual aspects of life including belief and faith. Speaking from this point, we all seem to be in the state of “out of control”, crisis as well as embarrassment.
The theme stated above is exemplified by the works of the participating artists who tend to insert in urban landscape “natural forms” in the concept of “non-sculptural” or “trans-sculptural” art. Nature is beyond the definition and control of human beings and politics. These “natural forms” are based on the artists’ new understanding of the visual characteristics of sculpture, which enables them to utilize natural mediums in their representation of complex and poetic ideas. They are the embodiment of the artists’ attitude to the relationship between artificial urban planning and natural formation, and a demonstration of their keen interest in natural power and formal structure. These works are also examples of the artists’ exploration and experimentation of the possibilities of sculpture. What these artists have in common is their concern with man, society and nature as a whole, which is totally and respectfully represented in their rendering of the living “landscape”. The artists’ understanding of the relationship between man and nature is represented in their works that are based on their absorption and digestion of natural elements. They try to hide artificial traces and put the viewer on the borders between man and nature. Their art is a call for respect for and love of nature, and a call for protecting our ecological environment, in the hope of helping modern people think over the past for the benefit of a new future.
This exhibition is a site-specific show that takes places at the OCT Contemporary Art Center of He Xiangning Art Museum in The Overseas Chinese Town of Shenzhen City, where the exhibited artworks are incorporated into the art center’s space, surrounding environment and facilities. The theme of the exhibition concentrates on contradictions between aspiration and worries about China’s modernization, and conflicts between the spiritual and the ecological worlds. The exhibition is meant to be a showcase for active Chinese artists who vary in ideas, mediums and art languages in their exploration of some of the issues discussed above.
Urbanism or the process of urbanization is an allegorical representation rather than simply scenery. Artists belong to a special group in the urban environment, who deserve our special attention with their sensitivity, insight and unique experience of their environment as well as their critical and humorous styles. New art is likely to emerge in this type of uncertain yet new forms of art, which is accomplished through artistic transformation by artists who are sensitive to the contemporary time period. These artists are not only observers of cultural scenarios but also active participants in expanding their possibilities. What are exhibited in the show are not sceneries from daily life. Rather, they are the products of the artists whose creations are based on their observation and experience of the contemporary “landscape” that have transformed their artistic concepts and methods. The rich visual creativity and imagination that they demonstrate in their illusionary landscape gives the audience brand new visual experience and surrealistic feelings, which is a great contribution to the development of contemporary sculpture in China.