2 July 2014

China’s reformations at White Rabbit Gallery

Words and images: Saskia Edwards

China’s modern history has been punctuated with reformations.

At the turn of the century, the Xinhai Revolution ended centuries of imperial rule in China. The Qing dynasty was overthrown by rebellion uprisings across the nation.

In 1949 Mao Zedong created the People’s Republic of China - a communist nation - an event that has ultimately shaped much of modern China. Mao’s legacy is one of ultimate control, indoctrination and force.

Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping reformed China to a market economy, opening the nation to the rest of the world and infiltrating China with Western products and concepts.

Thus, in a century, China has seen its country in a flux of reformation and continual transformation.

The Reformation exhibition is explored through three levels – modern forms, sex and visual illusions.

The initial level is scattered with robotics and modern technologies. While the forms are decidedly new, the pervading ideas often stem back to ancient mythology or historical behaivour.

As viewers progress to the middle room, the concept of sex permeates the works. Sexual interaction in China, much like many societies, has followed a history of particular and obscure etiquettes. From the titillation of deformed feet, to the current one-child policy, sex in China has been shrouded in connotations of suppression, pure recreation and shame.

These themes are apparent in works like a sculpture constructed from bondage apparatus, video works of stylised sexual acts and anatomical photographs of body parts.

On the final level there is a focus on projections, optical illusions and a reshaping of traditional art. Oil paintings on canvas have been cut out and weaved into a chain of decapitated heads and wooden antique film apparatus projects video of historical photographs and footage.

Overall, the White Rabbit Gallery illuminates the spectrum of contemporary work by artists from China, a country better known for its traditional art forms. While freedom of expression is limited in the communist state, modern Chinese art is still prolific around the world.

A rabbit often symbolises rebirth, sexuality and innocence. And perhaps it is these concepts that underlie much of modern Chinese history and the work of current Chinese artists.

Visit the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale in Sydney.

(All photographs are taken on 35mm film)

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