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Daily Main Book - China China

15 July 2013

It is hardly surprising that such an impressive introduction to the Chinese art scene is not being displayed in Beijing. That it is to be found in Kiev, however, is perhaps equally unexpected. Eleven Chinese artists have provided installations for the exhibit at the Pinchuk Art Centre, with more than half of them presenting brand new works. Taken together, they are a striking journey through the cutting edge of contemporary Chinese art, proving it has a depth well beyond the well-known works of Ai Weiwei.

The gallery is funded by Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk as part of his effort to rebrand as a serious philanthropist. Entrance is free, and the PR people proudly state that 80 per cent of visitors are between 16 and 35.

It is a demographic that should enjoy this latest exhibit, permeated with visual sumptuousness and playful interactivity. The loose theme is the relationship between the individual and the state, a universal topic that of course has particular relevance for China and its artists.

The show features three previously exhibited pieces by Ai Weiwei, the most visually impressive of which is Rooted Upon, 32 sculptures made from vast, sprawling gnarly roots, harvested from trees uprooted across China. The work sits in the middle of a room, the walls of which are adorned with the photographs from Fairytale, hundreds of simple black and white portraits of varying Chinese citizens, permeated with detail on close viewing of any single photograph but merging into a faceless mass when viewed from any distance.

Strewn on the street outside the entrance is Officer, a self-portrait in sculpture by Zhao Zhao, who for seven years was an assistant to Ai. Dressed in a military uniform and spliced into segments, the statue has a number of subversive details - the soldier's identification number is the date of Ai's arrest, and a previous version of the work was confiscated by Chinese authorities. Harking back to the iconic images of fallen dictators, there is an Ozymandias quality to such a sternly imposing military figure lying prostrate and destroyed, shards of its torso littered all around.

Many of the artworks walk a tightrope between the playful and the sinister, notably Teenager Teenager by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, involving six smartly dressed wax mannequins seated on sofas, their heads encased in vast rocks, while two live children scuttle around the viewers' feet on the floor inside cardboard boxes with small holes for their eyes, making pig noises. Visitors can ponder the suggestions of inter-generational alienation while taking novelty photographs of themselves next to the rock-headed models.

To 6 October (

Independent Print Ltd.

Source: The Independent