The intrigue of contemporary art

Three widely different exhibitions offer something intriguing for art lovers.

It is a good time to enjoy contemporary art in Hangzhou this month. An up-and-coming artist is holding her first solo exhibition here; a veteran painter makes a long-awaited comeback and brings his works to China; an intriguing art experiment is going on in the factories. All of these are worth a closer look.

A line of verse from the poet Gu Cheng at Xiao Hua’s solo exhibition

Xiao Hua’ solo exhibition at Van Art Space

An artist of mixed media painting, Xiao Hua is having her first solo exhibition, “Time is Stopping,” in Hangzhou. 

Based in Berlin, Xiao Hua is a Suzhou native and lived in Hangzhou from 2012 to 2013 studying at the China Academy of Art. Her works focus heavily on the inner state of mind and personal sentiments.

“For me, Hangzhou’s beauty lies in its sentimentalism. I don’t know why, but my impression of Hangzhou is always rainy and misty,” Xiao Hua told Shanghai Daily at the exhibition’s opening on August 12.

A great part of her works involve stitching on canvas. It was winter when she first arrived in Berlin, and she felt the city was enveloped in bleakness. Stitching offered a way to fix the rupture between art and reality.

That kind of bleakness is reflected in her paintings with different variations of gray, grayish-blue or grayish-gold.

There are lighter moments. In a painting entitled “Five Clouds?” the bright blue of the clouds stands out in the background. Zooming in, you will see the white stitching lines piercing through the clouds.

In the series “From 1 to 1000 Meters?” each the size of an A4 page, fish wires are stitched to canvas in different shapes and arrangements, some resembling a noose, others in a more random approach. 

Highlighted by a line of verse from the poet Gu Cheng next to the series, her works also explore possible struggles on identity.

“I don’t want to be defined as a woman artist,” said Xiao Hua. “But sometimes you need to be tougher than men.”


Date: Through October 8 (closed on Mondays)

Address: Bldg 3-108, 167 Fenghuang Shanjiao Rd

Two visitors watch one of the works of Walter Robinson’s solo exhibition at Inna Art Space. It focuses on the mundaneness of life and the lust of consumerism.

Walter Robinson’s solo exhibition at Inna Art Space

An exhibition featuring works of American artist and art critic Walter Robinson is on display at Inna Art Space. It is the first time that Robinson’s works have been exhibited in the Chinese mainland.

Folded shirts, a cheeseburger, camel cigarettes, a pair of derby shoes and the cover of a pulp fiction — these are the subjects of Robinson’s paintings, which focus largely on the mundaneness of life and the lust of consumerism.

Once a member of the American “Pictures Generation” in the 1980s, known for its appropriation of mass culture in collages, art-directed photography and other forms of mixed media, he has since kept a distance from the group and devoted his passion mainly to painting.

His other (and maybe better known) titles include founding editor of Artnet magazine, where he served from 1996 to 2012, reviewer for Art in America, and co-editor and publisher of Art-Rite newsprint magazine. It was only in recent years that he made a comeback to the museum and gallery circuit.

“I met Walter in his retrospective show in New York 2016, and I personally like his works very much,” Inna Xu, curator and owner of Inna Art Space told Shanghai Daily. “Later, a visit to his studio in Queens made it possible for his works coming to China.”

Banal as they may seem, his paintings never lack detail. In “Lisa’s Shelf,” you can almost recognize the labels of Clarins in those skincare products, possibly in one of the bathrooms in a middle-class home.

In the “Folded Shirts” series, the shirts, plaid or striped, carrying different collar labels, are neatly folded as a packaged product you see in department stores. Still you can tell the difference in how each one is folded, with some having one cuff on the front, some folded in. 

Such details offer space of imagination for viewers to contemplate the paradox of mass production, of the order and the anxiety it has brought to us. 


Date: Through October 19 (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

Address: Bldg 12, 139 Liuhe Rd

Artists selecting waste materials at Imago Kinetics.

“Bu Liao” (unexpected materials) at Imago Kinetics

Imago Kinetics is a non-profit art institution initiated by the artist Geng Jianyi in 2008, with sponsorship from the JNBY group, a designer clothing company in Hangzhou. 

The core of the lab is based on the concept that imagination is the driving force of all art forms. More than 50 art projects have been accommodated here since its inception.

They are preparing their next project to open on September 20, with the title “Bu Liao?” carrying the ambiguity from waste materials to unexpected materials. 

The project invites artists and designers to make an artwork out of the offcuts collected from factories.

“As artists, or designers, they deal a lot with manufacturers. The off-cuts are usually left over when the artwork is done. So we would like to know if these materials can be turned into something new again,” said Guo Xi, the project manager of Bu Liao at Imago Kinetics.

The so-called waste materials include items such as a piece of L-shaped wood from a frame manufacturer, a wrongly-printed sheet from a printing house, a steel mould leftover from making a banner and leather off-cuts from a furniture factory. 

All the items are recorded and numbered. Artists are allowed to take anything they want for making their own artworks within two months.

The exhibition has gathered some of the most active young artists and designers in town. And a colossus of over 500 pieces of waste materials are made ready for them to select from.

How about those that were not selected to be an art piece?

“They will be kept in the exhibition, in some other forms,” said Guo. The result could be a quite an interesting contrast to subvert your definition on what is useful and what is not.


Date: September 20-November 19 (closed on Mondays) ?

Address: 89 Wen’er Rd W.


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