The ongoing thoughts of an art teacher in China - and home in Sydney

A continuing diary about my travels in China, and thoughts about China and Chinese art from home and abroad

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Zhang Hongkuan's Power Nests - and thoughts about power cables in Beijing

Zhang Hongkuan, Power Nests, image courtesy of China Art Projects
I went to the opening last night of an exhibition by Zhang Hongkuan called 'Power Nests' at Artereal Gallery Rozelle, which made me even more keen (if that were possible!) to go back to Beijing soon. Large black and white photographs of the ridiculously complex and rather terrifying loops and whorls of Beijing power cables form powerful graphic images which are somehow reminiscent of ink calligraphy. Paradoxically, given the subject matter, they are arrestingly beautiful. Displayed in the 'white cube' of the gallery space they form a narrative about the possibility of finding beauty in the unexpected, as well as, perhaps, sounding a warning about the relentless growth and urbanisation of China, and the transformation of neighbourhoods in cities like Beijing and Shanghai as they become huge megapolises.

The craziness (to a western eye) of power cables in the streets of Beijing was the first thing I noticed on the drive from the airport when I arrived there in March. Outside my hotel in the financial district, near the subway station and a scarily busy intersection where I felt that to cross the road was akin to a game of Russian roulette, the power cables looped and sagged, swinging in the strong wind, with some wires dangling to the ground. Tiny red cheeked children ran around beneath and through them, and cyclists rode up onto the footpath underneath. I couldn't restrain myself from taking photograph after photograph of this cable chaos, in the hutong laneways as well as on main streets and boulevards, so I was fascinated to see them transformed into elegant artworks through the alchemy of black and white photography.

My photograph of Beijing power cables - Dazhalan in March 2011

Tomorrow: Dinh Q Le at the Sherman Foundation - too much art is never enough!