Built to Last - A contemplation on quality at Red Gate Gallery

Jul 31,2014

You don’t have to have lived in Beijing long be- fore you’ve heard someone complain about the quality of something. The city and country have developed so fast that progress has often come at the expense of quality. Buildings only months old already show signs of wear and tear, clothes fall apart after just one washing, things break imme- diately after purchase ... There’s no end to the list.

This chabuduo mentality has crept into the art world as well, a surprising development given that Chinese art schools are renowned for driving home the basics of artistic craft, a trend on a down- turn around the world as art students focus on ab- stract ideas rather than the how of making art.

So it was with a piqued interest that we checked out “Jiang Qi 3” at Red Gate Gallery, an ex- hibition dedicated to quality of craft. A group show featuring works from four artists, “Jiang Qi 3” is an example of art done well. It’s the third installment of a two-year collaboration between the artists, and the results are a challenging mix of craftsmanship and ideas.

Wang Lei’s works use newspaper and toilet paper as materials to make paper yarn that’s wove into blankets and traditional-style clothes. The fin- ished products look and feel like they’re made from actual cloth, by a talented knitter, at that.

Li Hongbo’s intricate paper-cutting skills are on display in pieces that are made to resemble the painted pillars of Red Gate Gallery, or the stones that make up the floor, until the ends are pulled apart to reveal an accordion of paper cutting.

The most impressive of the bunch is Ye Sen’s wood carvings, which link different objects together with chains, all created from the same piece of wood. And it’s not just us who were im- pressed. Australia’s White Rabbit Collection, one of the most extensive contemporary Chinese art collections in the world, picked up pieces from Wang Lei’s “Jiang Qi 3” contributions, and one piece from Ye Sen’s exhibition at The Opposite House, running concurrently with “Jiang Qi 3” and in collaboration with Red Gate.

For those who bemoan the lack of quality in Chinese contemporary art, take heart—it’s there. You just have to look for it.


LauraFitch
“Jiang Qi 3” at Red Gate Gallery, through August 10

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