|A group of young photographers shoot the work of Liang Shaoji at ShanghART, photo:LG|
|Lu Yang, Uterus Man installation, K11 Art Mall, Shanghai 2017|
A classic China moment: I wanted to see a curated group show at a certain very high-profile commercial gallery. It was a Saturday afternoon, and it should have been open. Arriving at the address, I found the door mysteriously locked. A bored guard, dozing over his jar of tea, got up and opened the door, and realised I was in the middle of a fashion shoot, with the paintings as backdrops. The guard assumed that any strange foreigner arriving at the door (no matter my less than fashionista appearance) must somehow be connected. The models, photographers, lighting technicians, make-up artists, hairdressers and runners completely ignored me, so I stayed tolook at the paintings by the light from my mobile phone.
|My inadvertent participation in a fashion shoot - as a witness|
|Tiny wooden stools like those that Song Dong and his friends sat on as children to watch movies shown in the Beijing hutongs - but here they are arranged behind the screen not in front of it.|
|Another iteration of ''Eating the City" - I overheard a boy strongly (and wisely) advise his girlfriend not to eat the stale cake|
He Xiangyu, 'Turtle, Lion and Bear' at Qiao Space was a disconcerting and very moving installation of 25 screens in a darkened space, featuring people in the act of yawning. It's infectious - you cannot not respond with your own yawns - the link between artist, artwork and viewer is complete. There was something quite magical about this sense of shared humanity.
|Student photographers engage with Liang Shaoji's work at ShanghART|
|Chen Yujun, installation view at Bank/Mabscociety|
|Chen Yujun, collage, detail, at Bank/Mabsociety|
Lu Yang, breaker of taboos and too cool for school, is always fabulous, and 'Delusional Mandala' in an exhibition of young new media artists 'Three Rooms' at Chronus Art Centre did not disappoint. I am rarely willing to stand in uncomfortable, cold gallery spaces on hard floors and watch long artist videos, but I watched this one twice, all the way through. Here's a snippet to tantalise, with commentary, from M Woods Museum in Beijing:
Yin Xiuzhen, Xu Bing, Hong Hao, Chen Yujun and a group of interesting artists in 'Collage: The Cards Players' (sic) at the Shanghai Gallery of Art, provided some strange and unexpected juxtapositions. I was delighted to see another iteration of Xu Bing's 'Background Story' series, where apparent traditional Chinese landscapes are created,not with ink and brush, but from rubbish and debris attached to a backlit screen.
|Xu Bing, Background Story, the front and the back|
|Yin Xiuzhen's rockets - or missiles - parodying the kitsch Pearl Orient TV Tower, all made of old clothing and textiles|
|Song Dong, "I Don't Know the Mandate of Heaven"|
After this disappointment, I entered a dimly lit upstairs space to be immersed in the meditative abstract paintings of Zhao Li, in her first solo exhibition for many years. Floating shapes hover on soft grounds of grey, or vivid red and pink. Linear forms overlapping and coalescing suggesting the constant rhythms of the universe and the human body. Zhao is interested in Daoist thought, and the push and pull of yin/yang binaries are evident in the juxtaposition of line and form in these compelling paintings. I was seduced - and calmed - post KAWS.
The exhibition text is, not unusually in China, full of emotive phrases like this: ''Reasonable romance and bold elegance can both be seen in her works.'' I may be obtuse, but I have no idea what reasonable romance is. But these paintings are absolutely, stunningly, beautiful. Painting in China is alive and well, and if April's crop of exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai are any indication, it is holding its own amongst the new media, photography, augmented/virtual reality, sculpture and installation.
A ratio of nine strong exhibitions to one that was just silly and shallow - actually, that's not bad. And there's even a Chengyu, a four character idiom, that fits the situation: ''nine cows, one strand of hair''