Sunday, July 21, 2013

‘Blue Room’ and ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads'

Yang Shaobin is a significant name associated with the Chinese art scene post-1990s. A new exhibition, entitled ‘Blue Room’ by him at Denmark-based ARKEN Museum deals with the issue of responsibility - of taking responsibility and being held responsible. The venue also hosts a pivotal work by the controversial Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.

Dealing with the issue of responsibility
One comes across large, blue paintings, with half-dissolved figures staring back from the canvases. Faces of well-known world leaders emerge, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and US President Barack Obama.

These well-known faces hang side by side with portraits of completely unknown adults and children, all victims of pollution and natural disasters. Yang Shaobin creates an encounter between the powerless, the powerful and the rest of us who look on. Shaobin got the idea for BLUE ROOM during a trip from Australia to China, just as the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference was kicking off in Copenhagen. Based on the conference, he started collecting material on pollution and natural disasters along with stories and photographs of some of the ordinary people impacted by the global climate changes.

 ‘Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads'

It’s among a few pivotal works by the controversial Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is on display at Denmark-based ARKEN Museum. The curious work represents the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. As calendar signs, they have wide-ranging influence on everyday life in China. The significant group of sculptures was deposited at the instittuion by the Frahm Collection a month ago.

In 2010, Ai Weiwei recreated the circle of animals to trigger a discussion about national pride and self-image. Working from the seven existing heads, he added his own reinterpretations of the five missing heads. Ai Weiwei’s art revolves around human rights and criticism of Chinese society.

A press release elaborates: “The work is closely tied to Chinese history. In the 18th century, 12 animal heads were cast in bronze for Yuanming Yuan, an imperial palace in Beijing. The magnificent gardens also included pavilions and fountains in the European style designed by an Italian Jesuit monk serving the emperor. The heads were ornaments on a large fountain. When French and British troops ransacked the palace in 1860, the heads were scattered to the winds."

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