This recent exhibition showcased the work of contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing. Drawings in the first room charted his days as an urban youth sent for re-education in a rural commune, after which he entered the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1977. These were monochrome landscapes, rural and industrial, very rich in detail and with a broad tonal range. Artists were trained on the Soviet model, which was in turn based on French realism of the 18th century. An array of French landscape drawings from the Ashmolean’s own collections were also displayed, creating enjoyable visual parallels. Xu Bing’s work grew less realist and more abstract: a field is still a field, but texture and pattern predominate, as in Five Series of Repetitions. He went on to develop his signature technique of incorporating Chinese characters within the structure of his landscapes, creating a fusion of word and image.
Xu Bing: Landscape Landscript
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
28 February to 19 May 2013 (now closed)
There is an online version of the exhibition.
Above: Xu Bing, Family Plots, Beijing, 1988. From Five Series of Repetitions. Woodcut, ink inscription. Height 55cm, width 72cm. Lent by Xu Bing's Studio. Image: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/object/LI2007.61.