Where: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU
When: 17 November -21 November 2015 10.00-18.00
VIP and Press View: 17 November 18.30-20.30
Please RSVP to Lang Xiao (email@example.com)
Garden of Dreams at Royal College of Art
Chinese artist Liu Weidong’s debut solo exhibition in London
Gardens, a passion shared in both China and Britain for centuries, are deeply rooted in both cultures. In C.18th England, the landscape architect Capability Brown established new trends with smooth-surfaced, undulating grass park-land, intermittently dotted with mature trees and occasional serpentine lakes. In China, classical gardens, consisting of walls, ponds, rocks, trees, flowers-beds and winding paths, date back even further, inherited from thousands of years of tradition.
Similarly, in both countries, these beautiful garden vistas, attracted artists keen to record them. The garden is an endless theme throughout Chinese art; the ancient traditional Chinese Shanshui (landscape) paintings, immortalizing these often-inaccessible utopias for future generations of artists and scholars. This ancient legacy has been reinterpreted by some of China’s leading contemporary artists, such as Zhan Wang’s ‘scholars’ rocks’, displayed in the Great Court of the British Museum in 2008 and Xu Bing, who transformed the John Madjeski Garden at V&A into an idealised landscape through his installation in 2013.
This November (17th-21st), British audience will have an opportunity to see another such reinterpretation, with the exhibition of 20 oil paintings themed on Chinese Gardens by artist Liu Weidong at the Royal College of Art, in the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange.
Liu Weidong grew up in Jiangnan, south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, where these private gardens were created for their literati and scholar owners, to nurture and encourage poetry, relief, sanctuary, pure delight and harmony between man and nature. Now in China, with an urban population of over 700 million following the breakneck speed of urbanization in the past 30 years, many of those small garden oases and the memories and mysteries associated with them, have disappeared. However, not all. As Liu Weidong said, “Luckily, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Classical Gardens of Suzhou are well preserved, which has provided me a possibility to restore my gardens-related memories today”. The gardens, more than a type of landscape, also embody the humanism and the spirit of ancient Chinese scholars and literati society. Being a scholar in art history and English literature makes Liu even closer to the essence of the Chinese gardens.
Liu Weidong’s Garden of Dreams paintings have a ghostly, surrealist appearance that paradoxically evokes feelings of calm and anxiety. The muted palette, occasionally enlivened by a dash of peach blossom pink, have a mysterious, haunting atmosphere – these walled gardens, void of anything animate, receptacles perhaps of hidden secrets and past misdemeanours, have become prisons to such hushed memories. Fusing Liu Weidong’s deep knowledge of both eastern and western art history – the Garden of Dreams series reflect this duality of source. From traditional Chinese ink painting and it’s classical imagery, to the flattened planes and monochrome colours of ‘synthetic cubism’ and the psychological ambiguity of surrealism, Liu Weidong’s work nevertheless has it’s own, unique pictorial language, that pose universal and metaphysical questions about the meaning of our lives.
About the Artist
Liu Weidong (b.1960) was born in Nantong, a city on the northern bank of the Yangtze River in East China. Liu is the President of Nanjing University of the Arts (NUA), which is the largest and one of the most historical arts universities in China. Liu also becomes well known as art historian, art theorist, and artist. Liu graduated from Nanjing Normal University in English Language and Literature in 1984. He obtained a Master degree at NUA in European art history in 1987, and furthered his study in Montana State University in 1992-1993. He resided at the Fine Art School at University of Kassel in 1997 as Senior Visiting Fellow, and at School of Art & Design at West Virginia University in 1998. His PhD research was comparative study on art education between China and the West. As an art historian and art theorist, Liu serves as the Vice Chairman of the National Art Theory Teaching Advisory Board (Ministry Of Education) and has published about 20 books and essays on iconography, Chinese and western art history. As an artist, though without an institutional training of painting skills, Liu has developed his own artistic narratives on presenting oriental and individual subject matters using the most traditional western painting medium of oil and canvas. Fascinated by the walls, ponds, rocks, trees and flowers, winding paths and zig-zag galleries enclosed in Chinese gardens, which have evolved over three thousand years, the artist pursues the harmony of nature and human rooted from his childhood memory.
在中英两国，美轮美奂的园林都吸引了大批艺术家，成为他们创作的灵感源泉。从古代中国文人墨客在山水画中表现出的对“世外桃源”的无尽向往，到中国当代艺术家对“园林”的再创作，都证明“园林”这一主题和意象自始至终都贯穿在中国艺术之中。对于英国观众而言，中国当代艺术家创作的“园林”作品也许并不陌生。2008年，中国艺术家展望在大英博物馆中央大厅里展出作品金属“假山石”，表现在工业文明笼罩下的传统文化；而2013年徐冰的大型装置《桃花源的理想一定要实现》，在维多利亚与艾尔伯特博物馆中John Madjeski Garden的基础上进行改装，表达了我们每一个人对理想生存环境的向往。
This exhibition is supported by AMNUA (The Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts), and is presented by ARTouch Consulting.