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

Friday, September 2, 2011

'Leviathanation' on a Friday afternoon...

One of my students told me today that art on Friday afternoon was the highlight of her week - and I don't even think she was being sarcastic! There are many times when for a teacher the thought of Year 8 on a Friday afternoon might result in a certain sinking of the heart - even perhaps a desire to run away fast in the opposite direction - but with this class, and our focus on contemporary art, they are so keen to share ideas and get involved that quite the opposite is true and the lesson was a bit of a highlight of my week too.

Here is their 'take' on Huang Yong Ping's wonderful 'Leviathanation' shown in Tang Galleries in Beijing last April. They had  looked at it without any background information last lesson, and then read two brief reviews today:

"The fish is like the engine of a bullet train, pulling the people of China behind it."
"The fish is a monstrous 'Leviathan' (they all got the Jonah and the Whale reference after I suggested they think biblically) and represents Chairman Mao as a powerful ruler"
"All the little taxidermied animals represent less powerful people who attach themselves to those who have power"
"Fish in China represent good fortune and prosperity so this is China becoming more wealthy and powerful, moving into the future"

I found their thought processes fascinating, as were their attempts to put these thoughts into interesting descriptive and analytical language, which we wrote up immediately on the interactive whiteboard, with lots of collaboration and instant critique and feedback.

As so often happens, I found my own ideas about the work were challenged and extended by their interpretations and insights - what a great way to earn a living!

Huang Yong Ping, Leviathanation, 2011, Tang Galleries Beijing