News

Revolutionary Chinese art at University of Sydney gallery


5 August 2010

Liu Dahong, Four Seasons - Summer, 2006, lithograph, © The artist.
Liu Dahong, Four Seasons - Summer, 2006, lithograph, © The artist.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of 1960s and 1970s China is re-examined in a striking new exhibition at the University of Sydney Art Gallery.

China and Revolution: History, Parody and Memory in Contemporary Art opens at the University this Sunday 8 August, exploring the relationship between poster "propaganda" art of the period and the contemporary work of four artists who grew up in China during the Revolution.

The exhibition features 10 representative original posters from the University of Westminster's extensive collection, and works from collaborating artists Liu Dahong, Shen Jiawei, Xu Weixin and Li Gongming.

China and Revolution is co-curated by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, honorary Professor of Chinese Media Studies at the University of Sydney and Dean of the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, and Professor Harriet Evans, coordinator of Asian Studies Research at the University of Westminster.

Professor Donald says the exhibition examines a period of Chinese history that is rarely examined closely and often dismissed as "10 years of chaos".

"The GPCR was a national revolution in ways of thinking and in determining human value," says Professor Donald. "It involved a series of extraordinary political events, which destroyed lives, stopped careers, defined language and aesthetics. The State's position has been to describe those 10 years as 'chaotic' and close the subject abruptly."

She says the refusal to give more "than a cursory glance backwards at those years is a refusal to allow an entire generation to remember its childhood… For many of those people, now aged over 40, the memory of those years and the knowledge of the effects that they had on their childhoods, adult relationships and career ambitions are still acutely painful."

China and Revolution aims to open dialogue between the past and present through the display of original posters carrying political messages to the Chinese masses as well as the work from artists who experienced the revolution first-hand. Short contextual videos and audio, including an animated rendition of the radio call to daily exercises, provide a vibrant visual reminder of the Cultural Revolution and are included in the exhibition.

"The exhibition shows the past and present in an animated and sometimes furious conversation," says Donald. "Only when you examine the past are you able to look to the future."

China and Revolution: History, Parody and Memory in Contemporary Art closes on 7 November 2010.


Exhibiting artists:

Li Gongming is Professor in Chinese Fine Art History and the Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts History at Guangzhou Academy of fine Arts. He is an artist, arts historian and culture critic and is the vice-chairman of Art Theory Committee Guangdong Artists Association. Gongming's "New Poster Movement" in China and Revolution is inspired by the use of posters as a powerful tool. Gongming re-works the images as postcards with slogans that address the small-scale farmers and rural under-classes affected by contemporary market reform.

Liu Dahong is a Professor and supervisor of PhD candidates in the Fine Arts Department at Shanghai Normal University. He is a highly-respected painter whose work The Awakening of Insects was displayed in the 6th National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1989. Dahong uses textbooks, slogans and iconic poster images from the 1960s and 1970s to tap into childhood memories and thus to comment on the Cultural Revolution.

Xu Weixin is Professor and Deputy Dean of Art School at Renmin University. His recent works are committed to social and historic issues. His often haunting paintings from his ongoing large-scale portrait series, Chinese Historical Figures 1966-1976, which memorialise the famous and ordinary, and victims and perpetrators from the Cultural Revolution, are featured in China and Revolution.

Sydney-based Shen Jiawei was born in Shanghai in 1948 and is a self-taught artist. In Australia, he is known mainly for his portraiture - a portrait of former Prime Minister John Howard hangs in Parliament House. His work in China and Revolution revisits his youthful achievement as a monumental painter in China during the Cultural Revolution.


Exhibition details:
What:
China and Revolution: History, Parody and Memory in Contemporary Art at the University Art Gallery
When: 8 August to 7 November, 2010
Opening hours: 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Sundays, 12pm to 4pm.
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, northern end of the Quadrangle, University of Sydney
Cost: Free

For more information, visit the Sydney University Museums website.

Anonymous, Aerial drawing of Dazhai and surrounding, undated. Poster from the collection at the University of Westminster.
Anonymous, Aerial drawing of Dazhai and surrounding, undated. Poster from the collection at the University of Westminster.


Associated exhibition events:


Friday 6 and Saturday 7 August
What: Independent Chinese documentary screenings at the University of Sydney. Presented by the film studies program and held in conjunction with China and Revolution: History, Parody and Memory in Contemporary Art.
When: 1pm to 6pm on both days
Where: New Law School Theatre 026, Sydney Law School, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free. No registration required.
See the program details.


Wednesday 11 August
What: Meet the artists at the University Art Gallery
When: 11am to noon - Leicia Petersen (Freelance film maker)
Noon to 1pm - Professor Liu Dahong (Shanghai Normal University)
2pm to 3pm - Professor Li Gongming (Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts)
3pm to 4pm - Jiawei Shen (Sydney-based artist)
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Northern entrance to the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Wednesday 25 August
What: Art of the Cultural Revolution - Free lunchtime art talk by Professor John Clark (Department of Art History and Film Studies, University of Sydney)
When: 12pm to 1pm
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Northern entrance to the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Wednesday 8 September
What: Model Plays and Socialist Avant-garde - Free lunchtime art talk by Dr Yi Zheng (Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney)
When: 12pm to 1pm
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Northern entrance to the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Wednesday 22 September
What: Aesthetic Revolutions in Chinese Contemporary Art - Free lunchtime art talk by Dr Thomas Berghuis (Department of Art and History Studies, University of Sydney)
When: 12pm to 1pm
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Northern entrance to the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Wednesday 6 October
What: Missing Histories and Childhood in Cultural Revolution - Free lunchtime art talk by exhibition co-curator Professor Stephanie Hemelryk Donald (School of Media and Communication, RMIT University)
When: 12pm to 1pm
Where: University Art Gallery, War Memorial Arch, Northern entrance to the Quadrangle, Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Wednesday 20 October
What: Posters in the Early Post-Mao Era - Free lunchtime art talk by Jacqui Godwin (Department of Chinese Studies, University of Sydney)
When: 12pm to 1pm
Cost: Free
Bookings: 9351 6883


Media enquiries: Katrina O'Brien, 9036 7842, katrina.obrien@sydney.edu.au