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Feature: Chinese characters become protagonist at Milan Triennale's exhibition
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  • http://english.dbw.cn   2016-02-22 09:16:51
     

    For the first time in Italy, the strength of characters in the works of a leading Chinese artist was central at an exhibition that kicked off here on Saturday at the Palazzo dell'Arte (Palace of Art), the headquarters of the Triennale art institution.

    Xu Bing, born in Chongqing in 1955, is one of China's most acclaimed living artists. His "Character of Characters," a video animation illustrating the birth and relation of Chinese characters with human history, was the starting point of this project aimed at making the excellence of Chinese art known to a Western audience, curator Hans de Wolf told Xinhua at the exhibition preview.

    "The idea to make this exhibition occurred a couple of years ago, when I saw for the first time this absolute masterpiece of Xu Bing at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing," de Wolf recalled. "For me it was a moment of inspiration. I understood immediately the extreme quality of this artwork," he said.

    Yet also in the same year 2013, de Wolf went on saying, the Venice Biennale welcomed more than 100 Chinese artists who won no attention, a sign that Western audiences were not much aware about the fact that in China there are absolutely excellent artists. "That is why I decided to put Xu Bing at the center of an exhibition gathering other artists from different countries but all dealing with the same phenomenon, written language," he said.

    It was in this way that the Milan Triennale's exhibition running between Feb. 13 and March 6 and titled "Xu Bing Worlds of Words/Goods of Gods" was born and brought together eight artists from Africa, Europe and India who have all explored the world of words, "such an extremely powerful thing that in most cultures language is considered as a gift by the Gods," de Wolf elaborated.

    But whereas most languages were born as pictograms and evolved in other ways, the Chinese language is the only one that has kept a very high level of sophistication, de Wolf highlighted.

    "Looking back at my life as an artist, I find that I have made a lot of works related with Chinese characters. In fact when we write a word we are actually drawing a picture. Our children copy thousands and thousands of characters, they draw thousands and thousands of pictures," Xu Bing told Xinhua in an interview.

    He said that this very special culture and education system aroused profound reflection in his mind about the relation between China's culture and language. In Chinese history, a new dynasty always started with the reform of the language. "Why is China like this? Why are Chinese people thinking or working in this way? Through my art I want to show how much nutrition we have in our cultural background and how this has affected our history and contemporary art," he said.

    Xu Bing told Xinhua that in his rich life experience - he has witnessed the Cultural Revolution and has lived for 18 years in the United States before going back to China - he has put a "high degree of research" in these artworks produced in a lapse of time of more than 30 years.

    All of this complexity together with the contrasts and harmony born from his encounter with the Western culture is reflected in "Square Word Calligraphy," also on display at the exhibition, almost a code designed by Xu Bing. At first glance it appears to be Chinese characters, but in fact it is a new way of rendering English. Chinese viewers expect to be able to read it but cannot, while Western viewers are surprised to find that they can read it.

    In "Book from the Sky," another of his artworks, invented characters play a joke as they look real but have no meaning. "Here I tried to present the major elements of characters, a functional one and a decorative one. Take calligraphy as an example, it is like a ritual for worshipping characters, which become 'holy,' something higher than a tool passing information, and able to give space to knowledge instead of giving things," the Chinese artist explained to journalists at the exhibition preview.

    And this is exactly what art means for Xu Bing: reflection. "Human beings have discussed what art is for long time, but actually no one can give a definition of art, like so of the world, which is changing so fast. I never think that an art form or style are very important in order to be looked at as art. I just want my artworks to benefit humankind, help people think and go to right way of thinking," he told Xinhua.

    Author:    Source: xinhua     Editor: zhaojiawei

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