Yuan Gong, Sweet Bitterness, 2014. Sound installation. © Yuan Gong Studio Zhang Yisheng

Yuan Gong, Sweet Bitterness, 2014. Sound installation. © Yuan Gong Studio Zhang Yisheng

Critically acclaimed in China, Yuan Gong (b.1961) has gained international recognition with The Scented Air – More than 6000 m3, presented at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Using a large variety of media, his artworks subtly address many questions reflecting his concerns about the Chinese society and the formation of identity.

Bitterness is the first of a series of four Yuan Gong solo exhibitions that will take place in Chinese museums this year, respectively in Wuhan, Tianjin, Xi’an and Shijiazhuang. These four successive exhibitions will have the character of an introduction to the artist’s universe and practice, where the focus is not on an exhaustive thematic display but on the way the various works relate to the artist’s personal story.

Organized by the Hubei Museum of Art and curated by Du Xiyun, Bitterness will feature more than a dozen works by Yuan Gong, including installations, videos and performances. While the first section of the exhibition will focus on a selection of videos of performances using fog filled with fragrances – such as The Stroll (2012) and Air Strikes around the World (2013), the second segment will explore the artist’s ready-made practice through new installations produced specifically for the exhibition. Biscuit tins, old bed frames, washbasins, sound tracks or fragments of old Chinese movies of the 60-80s are some of the daily objects that Yuan Gong turns into contemporary art installations.

Among others, the installation Sweet Bitterness (2014) is composed of nearly 1,000 biscuit tins produced in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period of poverty and strict censorship in China, biscuits were rare delicacies that suggest prosperity and sweetness, and the images printed on the tins were equipped with a strong power that would guide people’s view of happiness. For Yuan Gong, these biscuits boxes evoke his mixed feelings of sweet and bitter memories, where his personal story intercepts China’s history.

Piling up daily objects and creating monumental “memorial” installations, the artist addresses the complex issue of the construction of history and identity. Which roles do images and objects play in the production of knowledge and social relations? What is the status of the artist in a fast-transforming society?

Currently living and working in Shanghai, Yuan Gong has had solo exhibitions at the Guangdong Art Museum, Guangzhou; the Zendai Contemporary Art Space, Shanghai; Bund18 Gallery, Shanghai; among other venues. Major international exhibitions in which he has participated in recent years include Belle Haleine – The Scent of Art, Museum Tinguely, Basel; Secret Signs, Deichtorhallen Museum, Hamburg; Asia Triennial Manchester 2014; the 12th National Art Exhibition, Today Art Museum, Beijing; ChinaArteBrazil, Oca Pavilhão, São Paulo; the 54th and 55th Venice Biennale. His works have been acquired by the White Rabbit Collection and by the Sigg’s Collection of Chinese contemporary art.

The exhibition is made possible by the support of the Hubei Museum of Art. Additional generous support has been provided by side effect, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of film and performing art in China.

Art Director: Fu Zhongwang

Academic advisor: Ji Shaofeng

Curator: Du Xiyun

Art Advisors: Li Zhenhua, Pi Daojian

Produced by: side effect

About zag group

Constituted of young talents from the Shanghai Theatre Academy, zag group is a newly formed group of graduated students that devote their energy to performance and performing arts including, dance, theatre and opera. They have presented the Turmoil performance for the first time at opening ceremony of Asia Triennial Manchester 2014 in Manchester Cathedral and at the opening ceremony of the Deichtorhallen Museum Secret Signs exhibition in November 2014.

Lecture by Prof. Dr. David Elliott

Following You….Thinking About Chinese Modern and Contemporary Art

This lecture is about the understanding and reception of Chinese modern and contemporary art in the West, from the late Qing period until the present. While greatest emphasis will be put on the period from 1949 to the present, it will also touch on the art historical role of the Woodblock Movement and of Shanghai as the ‘Paris of Asia’ from the 1920s to the 1940s.

About the exhibition

Duration: March 21–April 17, 2015

Opening: March 21, 3pm

Opening Performance: ZAG Group, March 21, 3:40pm

Venue: Hubei Museum of Art

Address: Donghu Road 1, San Guan Dian, Wuhan, Hubei 430077

Courtesy of the artist and Yuan Gong Studio.

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