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Modern Chinese Art: A New Generation at Asia House
Ch'en Ch'i-k'uan (Chen Qikuan), Summer Flowers, 1997.

LONDON.- Asia House announces the opening of Modern Chinese Art: A New Generation, the second of two exhibitions from Khoan and Michael Sullivans' unique collection of 20th century Chinese art.

Whilst the first exhibition, 'Beginnings', showed more traditional paintings, 'A New Generation' includes the more experimental, rebellious works of the avant-garde movement. Some of the best-known 20th Century Chinese artists are represented, such as Xu Bing, Cai Guoqiang, Yue Minjun, Wang Huaiqing, Ju Ming and Qu Leilei. This generation emerged after the Beijing Spring of 1979-81; a phase of political unrest that fuelled a wave of creative energy in the Chinese art world and provoked diverse responses from the young and politically aware. Many of their works expose a clamorous call for attention fuelled by new freedoms, as the doors to the West were suddenly opened.

This exhibition bears testament to the debates raging in the artistic community during this period. Major discussions revolved around such topics as the question of Chinese traditional painting versus Western painting, on calligraphy which becomes a powerful tool of dissidence, and on the nature of abstraction and landscape.

One key piece is Xu Bing's famous 'Book from Heaven', created with immense labour over a period of several years. This is a text in which thousands of imaginary characters printed by hand was displayed as an installation in Beijing and made into a book in traditional form; an exercise in the futility of human endeavour of monumental and heroic dimension. “It is,” says Professor Sullivan, “one of the most remarkable achievements in contemporary Chinese art”.

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