Abstraction: Chinese Do It Better at White Cube London

It is not the first time that White Cube London-based gallery entirely dedicates its exhibition space for some fresh Asian contemporary art. Spread across the White Cube Mason’s Yard in St. James gallery, a group exhibition of nine innovative Chinese artists examine the development of abstraction showcasing a wide range of paintings seen from the Chinese prism. There is a stirring mix of artists from different generations indicating various levels of techniques and modes of abstraction; Jiang Zhi, Liang Quan, Liu Wentao, Qian Jiahua, Qin Yifeng, Su Xiaobai, Tang Guo, Yu Youhan and Zhou Li share this gallery space and use their own art vocabulary in order to express their creative minds.

White Cube, Mason’s Yard, London, Exhibition View, 2016

It is remarkable how this selection of this wide range of artworks gracefully reflect the Chinese art understanding of abstraction. Chinese Arts traditionally have shaped their own aesthetics on abstract art which significantly differs from the Western practices and influences. In the Western part of the art world, abstraction is seriously linked with the 20th-century modernism movement. On the contrary, in China despite the western influences, the sense of the abstract art have older references such as the long lasting art of the Chinese calligraphy, influences from Asian religions as Buddhism as well as other principles from the Taoism philosophy. The current display at White Cube offers a thoughtful insight on the Chinese abstraction which is demonstrated in various forms. For instance, Qin Yifeng’s painting creates bonds with the Chinese calligraphy, whereas Jiang Zhi’s large paintings highlight a freer approach to digital practices based on multiple screen computer systems errors.

Particularly, an artist I was looking forward to seeing at this group exhibition was Yu Youhan (b.1943). I was not only interested in him because he is one of the foremost contemporary artists of China, usually called as the father of abstract painting and Political Pop in his country but also to experience the creative mixture of his artworks with less known and a lot younger Chinese artists. Youhan’s art practice has experimented various genres, however his Circle paintings demonstrate abstract motifs depicting different sizes of dots which outline a dynamic sense of freedom and lead to unveil an impressive visual rhythm on his canvases.

Su Xiaobai (b.1949) is regarded as one the most well-known Chinese contemporary artists whose creative emphasis is mainly on shape, minimal style and monochromatic approach. His art piece is also one of the most remarkable at this display while his style frequently is concentrated on monochromatic patterns as well as lacquer. The latter material has been used in craftsmanship and household furnishings for centuries in China, whilst it was also a major motif in Western abstract art. Given that, it can be argued that Xiaobai’s artwork encapsulates Chinese traditions as well as western modern motifs, therefore it is another reason why this artistic combination consists of an additional asset for this exhibition.

At this exhibition, Qian Jiahua (b.1987) is the youngest Chinese artist to be displayed. Her abstract forms offered me a noteworthy as well as a pleasant viewing which harmoniously blends with the abstract atmosphere of this display. Instead of some soulless monochromatic paintings, she presents abstract artworks with an elegant sense of tints and shades in a calm balance of different colours separated by distinctive lines dividing the existing painting in different shapes like multiple squares.

Qian Jianhua, 2016, Mutual

Jiang Zhi (b.1971) is another great surprise of this exhibition while setting the bar of this show to another level. The artist emphatically underscores the art of computer error and uses a digital language to create minimalist electronic compositions encouraging the visitor to an alternative reading of his abstract artwork. In addition, the gradual error’s distribution on canvas causes a dramatic aligning of spots while looking and significantly upgrades the artistic potential of this work. It is also exciting that his abstract form of expression embraces this virtual error to become actual, questioning the way the viewers respond to that immersive environment.

Finally, the Mason’s Yard exhibition is open to multiple interpretations and it is a great opportunity to experience some stimulating abstract art and become even further familiar with the Chinese perspective of the abstraction. Taking into account the space, the wide range of artists and their themes, this cohesive show enriches the viewer to comprehend why Chinese can do it better.

Jiang Zhi The World is yours, as well as ours 2015-2016
The World is yours, as well as ours, 2016, Exhibition View
Yu Youhan, Abstract 2007.12.1, 2007

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