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September 10, 2011

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Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Artists reveal dark truths

A joint exhibition featuring a Chinese artist and a Western artist often features a theme such as a dialogue between East and West. The overdone theme often results in a plain and empty exhibition.

But "Vanished Boundaries: A dialogue between Edwin Zwakman (a Dutch conceptual artist) and Liu Jianhua" succeeds where others have failed.

The artworks created by the two really connect with each other.

Liu is a noted Chinese sculptor and installation artist and his piece "Discard" simulates two excavation sites that investigate the ancient and the modern. The piece features two pits, each 15 meters long, 15 meters wide and 1.2 meters deep. They are filled with broken porcelain fragments and daily items such as plastic, discarded electronics, household trash and industrial waste.

Here ancient pottery shards are mixed together with modern waste so that it is impossible to separate the historical from the present, the imaginary from the real.

Liu also says he used these items as an allegory for the deformed and distorted relationship between Western developed countries and Third World countries in the chain of modern industrial production.

His works often employ the ancient medium of porcelain, but he does so to look at contemporary issues. For example, he once used pottery fragments to recreate the space shuttle Columbia disaster.

The porcelain fragments used in "Discard" came from Jingdezhen, an area famous for its pottery in Jiangxi Province.

"I grew up in Jingdezhen," Liu says. "There is an old tradition in Jingdezhen that continued for centuries - all porcelain pieces that couldn't match a certain standard whether in shape, technique or color, were smashed into pieces. This was done so that Jingdezhen kilns would secure fame throughout China.

"Such a serious attitude toward art is seldom seen today as society is so fast-paced now. This artwork is a reminder of how we should remain."

Zwakman provides a nice link to "Discard" with a photograph of a bulldozer and other pictures inside the exhibition hall.

"This is a great idea that I worked on with Liu to enhance the visual impact and the visible link between our works," Zwakman says.

Zwakman is a renowned Dutch conceptual artist whose work reflects his defiant spirit. His works primarily explore the visual and the expressive relationships between the real world and the simulated world in different experimental environments.

Zwakman uses complex, repetitious techniques, including simulated pictures and site-specific installations.

His works are rooted in the Dutch painting tradition, but there is also a contemporary edge to his art. He uses different mediums such as DVD documentaries, prints, sculptures and computer simulations to express himself.

Zwakman constructs "fabricated" real scenes that echo the ambience that wafted over from Liu's artworks outside.

The exhibition was jointly organized by Shanghai Pujiang Overseas Chinese Town Public Art Project and the Cultural Section of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Date: through October 30, 10am-5pm

Address: 800 Puxing Rd

Tel: 5433-8000


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