Black and white photograph. A man dress in a uniform with a cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth, stands with cross arms across his body and his eyes shut. The background depicts images of clouds.

Wang Ningde, Some Days No. 03, 2002. Photograph. Courtesy the artist and Michael Goedhuis. © Wang Ningde.

In focus: Chinese Contemporary Art

Artists: Han Feng, Wang Ningde, Ma Qiusha, Tian Taiquan, Yan Xing, Lu Xinjian, Liang Yue

The Chinese Contemporary Art collection has been developed since 2013, mainly in partnership with the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA). The artists range from emerging through to established, and come from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the diaspora. It is a broad collection with a variety of themes, as illustrated by the work in this exhibition.

Hang Feng, Shoe for Bird, 2012

A white leather laced shoe designed for a bird's foot.
Han Feng, Shoe for Bird, 2012. Mixed media. © Han Feng. Installation photograph by Museum Photography North West.

If birds wore shoes what type of shoes would they wear? On the one hand, Shoe for Bird may be understood as a quirky and light-hearted investigation into this ‘what if…’ question. However, this sculpture like much of Han Feng’s work, addresses broader issues including the opposition between the organic and the man-made; and the nature of freedom and constraint.

The artist explained: “These shoes and clothes for birds are a metaphor. They reflect the human world, I would like to raise the question that if we were all birds whether we would chose to fly or sacrifice our natural ability to fly, in order to put on a glamourous outfit.”

Wang Ningde, Some Days No. 03, 2002 (feature image)

A man dressed in a collared jacket stands with his arms folded across his chest. His held tilts gently to one side, while a long cigarette is held gently between his lips. Behind him, the sky is filled with billowing clouds, creating a dream-like setting. The man, although physically present, is also elsewhere, lost in his own private thoughts, dreams, or memories. The photograph, Some Days No. 03 gestures toward unfulfilled yearnings, longings and desires and suggests that outward appearances can only ever give a partial glimpse of the person within. Some Days No. 03 is one of Wang Ningde’s on-going series of photographs that address the construction of memory and reality, and how the recent past in China is often shrouded in mystery.

Ma Qiusha, Fog Series, 2013

Ma Qiusha, Fog Series, 2013. Watercolour on paper. Photograph by Nick Harrison. © Ma Qiusha.

From a distance the 3 panels of Fog Series appear to be monochromatic, however, on closer inspection, the dark surfaces are seen to be patterned and translucent and rather than being inscribed onto the surface, the lines are in fact gaps between the areas of paint, revealing the underlying surface of the paper. Ma used a lace curtain as a stencil, applying layers of paint to the fabric so that its pattern would be present but hidden on the paper. Using domestic objects, this work explores the suppressed emotions experienced by many of her generation, as they seek to balance familial duties with a wish for personal freedom. The harsh white lines at once suggest a violent rupture and a fragile gesture of individuality.

Tian Taiquan, Totem Recollection 3, 2007

Tian Taiquan, Totem Recollection 3, 2007. C-Print. © Tian Taiquan. Installation shot at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. Photograph by Pete Carr.

Tian Taiquan’s colour C-print, Totem Recollection 3, 2007, presents a near-lifesize female figure partially dressed in the green uniform of the Chinese Communist Party lying on a field of badges depicting Chairman Mao. The image evokes the suffering of those who experienced the Cultural Revolution, and the ways in which individual identity was drowned in a sea of propaganda.  In the contrast between the erotic pale flesh of the figure and the incessant, overwhelming figure of Mao, Tain evokes the experiences of a generation of people, whose youth and energy was curtailed according to the demands of the Party. Although her chest is exposed, the woman covers her face with her hand, conveying perhaps, a desire to lay bare her identity while ever conscious of the need for self-censorship.

Yan Xing, Letter to Mr Robin Peckham, 2012

Yan Xing, Letter to Mr Robin Peckham, 2012. Digital print. Installation shot at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. Photograph by Pete Carr.

Yan Xing is best known for his performance, video and installation works that are often underpinned by elaborate, eccentric and fictional back-stories. This limited edition print represents a thankyou letter from the artist to an Asia-based curator, Robin Peckham. Although Peckham is a real person and the statement is signed by the artist, it is unclear whether the circumstances described in the artwork are a true reflection of Yan Xing’s situation in 2012. That year, he had his first UK solo show at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA), won the Chinese Contemporary Art Award for Best Young Artist Beijing; received a nomination for the Future Generation Art Prize from the Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev; and was a finalist in the Focus on Talents Project from Today Art Museum, Beijing.

Lu Xinjian, City DNA / Salford and Manchester, 2016

Photograph of abstract artwork comprising of yellow and red shapes and lines.
Lu Xinjian, City DNA / Salford and Manchester, 2016. Acrylic on canvas. Installation shot at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. Photograph by Pete Carr.

City DNA / Salford and Manchester presents a graphic view of the topography from the University of Salford campus to Manchester city centre, where CFCCA is located. Working from aerial views from Google Earth, the painting began as a series of sketches which were then made into a stencil using Adobe Illustrator. The final design of lines, curves, squares and circles was hand-painted. What is given in lieu of an accurate cartography, is a sense of place- the vibe, rhythm or tempo of the area where Salford and Manchester meet. It was also made into a wallpaper for CFCCA.

Liang Yue, untitled, 2018 

Installation photography: This is Shanghai at The Cunard Building. Photograph copyright Rob Battersby.

Commissioned by Liverpool City Council in partnership with University of Salford and Open Eye Gallery, Liang Yue presented her series of works in This is Shanghai exhibition (14 July – 7 September 2018)  alongside the Liverpool Biennial 2018.

Artist Liang Yue undertook a short residency in Liverpool in April 2018. Although this was her first visit to the city, it appeared strangely familiar to her. The Pier Head reminded her of the Bund back in Shanghai, ‘the noise of traffic, running up and down near the dock, and the smells …are redolent of Huangpu River.

For this exhibition a triptych of photographs by Liang depict the tranquility of the River Mersey as it glistens in the sunlight.

In Focus Chinese Contemporary Art exhibition handout

Exhibition dates: Monday 12 November 2018 – Friday 1 February 2019
(closed Monday 24 December 2018 until Wednesday 2 January 2019)
Opening hours: Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm.
Venue: New Adelphi Exhibition Gallery, University of Salford