05 February 2014

Art I like - He Xiangyu

At a loose end after the drawing class, and because the sun was shining, I got off the train at London Bridge and popped round the corner to White Cube Bermondsey to see what was on. Darren Almond's long-exposure photos by moonlight ... pleasant enough;  not so, to my eye and mind, was Franz Ackermann's room full of "frenetic energy" and bright colours.

So the reason for this post is the other artist on show - He Xiangyu (showing till 13 April).

The "collapsed thing" in my photo is made of thick, luxury-grade leather - hand-sewn by an entire factory of needle workers, trained by the artist - it took two years to make and it replicates a tank, complete with gun turret. Lots of piano-hinge fastenings holding the treads together and other such details. "With this collapsed and deflated object," says the gallery notes, "He Xiangyu questions the steady advancement of Western materialism in contemporary China, and the mutual interdependencies of political and economic power."

See more of He Xiangyu's show in the link above - the tiny golden tower made from his wisdom teeth is "interesting" and his work with "cola resin" is an astonishing concept - he's boiled down 127 tons of Coca Cola over a year to get this gunk. "The resulting material residue has taken various forms, including a black ink that the artist has used to make Song Dynasty-style landscape paintings and a highly-corrosive, pungent, earth-like substance."

The golden thing in the background is an egg carton of 99.9% pure gold, and has one egg in it - it's a comment, inter alia, on China's one-child policy. The title is "220g Gold, 62g Protein".

Also, there's a pink room - pink ceiling, pink walls, pink carpet - with some strange objects in the middle - "small copper casts from a mould which the artist created by feeling the inside of his mouth with his tongue". I didn't go look at them closely - there was something off-putting about walking across that pink carpet! - the idea is enough. And the memory of pinkness ... protecting those objects.

It's one of those exhibitions that you're glad to stumble upon, but might not go out of your way to see. This is the first UK exhibition for this Beijing artist, who is well-known in China for his provocative and ambitious work; he's "part of a new generation of conceptual artists in China using a range of media to articulate cultural and social concerns."

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