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.
Recent paintings and drawings by contemporary Korean artist Min Jungyeon (b. 1979) were on show last month at the Hada Contemporary gallery. The works fell broadly into two camps: large canvases in acrylics, very precise and in places very richly detailed, and smaller ink drawings of foam-related subjects – as in Mousse Destructrice, where a structure of girders and poles is broken apart by clouds of this foam-like substance. Organic forms contrast with more geometric or constructed ones, as in Travaux 2, where the realism of construction workers on a building site is off-set by a proliferation of strange biological forms, resembling layers of coral, or slices from a mammalian digestive system. Her strengths as a technician are an essential part of the work, seen in the conscious choice of different pen strokes to create shade and substance – from very fine cross-hatching to a more cursive scribble.
Min Jungyeon Solo Exhibition
Hada Contemporary, London
7 to 31 March 2013
This small but intriguing show presents drawings and sculptures by Takayuki Hara, a Japanese-born artist resident in the UK. The works on display are from the last three years, part of a project inspired by the Metamorphoses of Ovid, and focusing on the “shapeshifting” of bodies, animals and nature. If this leads you to expect something a bit cerebral, don’t be fooled. He manages to pack his works with such an array of different body parts that they start to feel not just organic but visceral – eyes, ears, toes, genitalia, indeterminate organs with tubes extending, maybe hearts or stomachs or bladders. A curious tension emerges between the controlled, technical quality of the drawing, painstakingly executed in very fine pencil, and their potentially earthy subject matter. The sculptural pieces reproduce this tension – for instance, incorporating organic forms such as egg shells under the confines of a glass bell jar. (Images are just my snaps).
Takayuki Hara: A Shapeshifting World
Unit24 Gallery, London
22 February to 14 March 2013
Above: Takayuki Hara, Hollow, 2011. Polymer clay, eggshell, print and graphite on a wooden box in a glass dome. Height 18cm, width 8cm. Image: STF.
Below: Takayuki Hara, Bridge, 2011. Graphite on paper. Height 42cm, width 59cm. Image: STF.