If you think about china not only at night, some people lose sleep: the explosive economic rise of this nation of 1.4 billion people seems too powerful, and western societies are too weak by contrast. But what about the beautiful arts? The chinese are known to have a soft spot for german composers and classics, but vice versa? Yes, the middle kingdom also has a thriving visual arts scene that goes far beyond the work of ai weiwei, who was omnipresent in this country at the time.
This is documented by exhibitions not in berlin or dusseldorf, but in six french cities of all places: roth, erlangen, bamberg, schweinfurt, ansbach, bayreuth. These under the signum "2. German-chinese art exchange" the exhibitions called "amplitude of difference" have a prehistory. In 2015, there was already an exchange between seven french cultural institutions, including the kunstverein bamberg and the berufsverband bildender kunstler in oberfranken (BBK), and the yunnan arts university in kunming. This is the capital of the southwestern chinese province of yunnan, whose four million inhabitants are roughly equivalent to the number in france. 10000 students study at the university where ma ning teaches, the initiator of chinese-french art contacts.
Already last fall, the second wave of works by chinese and french artists was on display in two museums in yunnan as part of this exchange project. They were selected by a german and a chinese jury, each from a series of works. From spring to autumn this year is "amplitude of difference" now on view in six french cities, each as a double exhibition due to its size – in the summer in the villa dessauer and in the kunsthalle schweinfurt, as BBK chairman gerhard schlotzer explains, the curator responsible for bamberg. The main organizer is the chairman of the bayreuth art association, hans-hubertus esser, who together with the president of the yunnan arts university, guo hao, has published an already designed catalog.
About 130 works by 26 german and 26 chinese artists have been selected, two thirds of them in the villa dessauer, one third in the kunsthalle. An attempt was made to create coincidences between color, form or material, also in correspondence with space, assures schlotzer. On a tour of the villa dessauer, the first thing that impresses is the level of craftsmanship of the chinese works. And: on the whole the artists from the far east insist on the objectivity. Abstraction, fluxus, performance are either largely ignored or yet to be discovered.
Perhaps the geography of yunnan also plays a role: the province is known for its scenic beauty, its pleasant climate, and also for the many ethnic minorities living here. A delegation of french artists visited the art university in yunnan in the fall and found that a great deal of emphasis is placed on traditional, craft-based training, on ink, watercolor and oil painting, and on a printmaking studio. However, in the catalog essay ma nings once succinctly states: "in the course of the economic boom, the old city of kunming was replaced by a new one."
Already in the foyer of the villa, a rough-format oil painting stands out. "Past 1" by chen liu is a feast of color that mixes up realistically painted human heads and animals. The focus on objectivity does not mean that the chinese artists were working in a conventional or old-fashioned way: surrealistic motifs can be found in the "collection of memoria 2" chair by anke deng as well as in the – damaged "fish-landscapes 1 and 2" duan yuhai or in the men with tiger heads wang yangs. This raises the question of political allusions in an authoritarian system or censorship. Courtly and elegant, the chinese tend to dodge such issues by pointing out that they are not yet ready or that certain discussions cannot be held, says schlotzer.
Subcutaneous allusions could certainly be suspected in the people with gas masks walking up a staircase ("stairstep" by ying borui), or the half-naked man lying on his stomach in "folded room 6" of luan xiaojie. Also "dream – tiger feeding with your own body" by gao xiang opens up such spaces of interpretation.
No harmless gimmicks
The french artists also avoid superficial political art. But the plastic "nato-wire-mask" by helga schwalt-scherer or the toy helicopter above the manikin ("kaputt") by barbara grone-trux) are no harmless gimmicks. The diverse forms and techniques are striking, such as chinese characters on woven fabrics with "why 1 – what human beings are" …" By geli haberbosch, on the other hand the hyper-realistic "old cafe" reminiscent of edward hopper nikolai lagoidas. Gerhard schlotzer is also represented with two drawings, one of them a meditation on "let it be". And video art is presented by werner bernhard nowka and monika schodel-muller with a message that is at least optimistic. Which could also serve as the theme of the exhibition, an exhibition the like of which has not been seen in bamberg for a long time.
Vernissage the show "amplitude and difference" will be on friday, 12. July, at 7 pm in the villa dessauer eroffnet, hainstrabe 4a. Speakers included prof. Guo hao, dr. Ma ning and gerhard schlotzer. Invited are all. Opening hours do-so, public holidays 12-18, until 9. August. Catalog 207 pages, ca. 36 euro