Wednesday, 29 August 2012


 ‘Metamorphosis: Titian 2012’ brings together Chris Ofili, Conrad Shawcross and Mark Wallinger in a unique collaboration with The Royal Ballet, specially commissioned works responding to three of Titian’s paintings – Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon and the recently acquired Diana and Callisto – which depict stories from Ovid’s epic poem ‘Metamorphoses’.

The original poem was rendered to paintings by Titian, then today, to contemporary poem, ballet, paintings, performance and installation. 

I particularly like Mark Wallinger’s discovering and concealing way of response.  It offers a contemporary encounter with a living, breathing Dana while reminding us of the perils of looking.  It is refreshing to walk in a dark room to walk around a bathroom model and peek through possible holes…

Wallinger said “Diana is about watching and being caught in the act and evolved out of my desire to find a way of representing Diana bathing in a contemporary way.”

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


It is another way of presenting art works.  The space itself is unique changing from an industrial oil tank to a gallery space.  Walking in it like walk in another futuristic world, to me at least.  The art works exhibited are video and performance based, some of which are much interactive.  I would like to spend a whole afternoon to have a better engagement.  More than ever, I feel time the most critical factor in art making and appreciation.

Monday, 27 August 2012

UN-TAKE A BREAK - Patrick Keiller The Robinson Institute

Patrick Keiller constructed a narrative using Tate Britain's collections and his own works.  It is a grand installation with lots of material to engage and digest but I found it original and interesting, from the idea to the presentation, of course the individual works made across hundreds of years by well known artisits. It is in response to Tate’s Collection of British and international art. The Robinson Institute is an exhibition that considers the origins of the current economic crisis. Throughout The Robinson Institute, images of landmarks and locations in the English landscape are employed to illustrate the development of capitalism.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


I thought it should be boring.  It is very boring...

I am never interested in document photography, thought a bit interesting to see how the urban life was long time ago in London.

Friday, 24 August 2012


So the D800E arrived in the summer.  With the right shutter speed, lighting and lens, the image taken is sharp.  It is like a studio camera.  I took a lot of portraiture around me.  Every time an image is taken I check on the camera back to see how sharp it is.  I get more and more carried away by the technology and hardware.  Sharpness and resolution become the key factor in my photography.  “Is it good enough like a large format?” is the question continuously around me. Then I visited the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 at the Photographers Gallery.  I have not been to any gallery lately.  This show is the most refreshing.

I realised that I had missed the content of the photography after I have the D800E and carried away by the “form”.  Kawauchi’s images used to have such an impact to me.  The daily mundane miracles, the void and the absence inspired me to find lots of visual revelations and thinkings in my life.  Stezaker’s montage used to provoke much thinking and let me see lots of things behind the image through the wired montage narratives and absence of “something”.  I have missed all the poetic and conceptual quality in all images I took from this D800E.  This D800E makes me to enter into the McDonald world with easy-going and happy for nothing.  I am glad that I visited this show as it drags me back into the other world with feelings, thinkings, and enlightening. 

I officially entered into my photographic art world today.  Yes, I am back and there are still a few days this summer.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


“Night Revels of Lao Li” (abbreviated as “Lao Li”) is a contemporary photographic work made by Wang Qingsong in 2000.  It is based on a Chinese traditional painting named “Night Revels of Han Xizai” (abbreviated as “Han Xizai”)  by Gu Hongzhong (A.D. 910 – 980) in ca. 970.  “Lao Li” is a C type print measuring 960mm x 6000mm.  It is about Lao Li’s one night party.  “Han Xizai” is an ink and colour painting on a 287mm x 3355 mm silk hand scroll.  It depicts Han Xizai’s private night party.

“Lao Li” is constructed photography.  “Han Xizai” had a sophisticated context when created.  Han Xizai was an intellectual politician the Nan Tang Dynasty (A. D. 937-975). Gu Hongzhong, the court painter, was supposedly sent to pry on Han Xizai's private life instructed by the Emperor Li Yu. There are several versions of the story. According to one version, Han Xizai had refused Li Yu's offer to be the prime minister. Worrying about Han Xizai’s intention, Li Yu was interested to know what was behind Han Xizai’s refusal. Surprisingly the painter found him indulging in partying.  Han Xizai was not satisfied with the Emperor’s incompetence and corruption.  He preferred to indulge himself in every day partying rather than joining his contemporaries in the degenerate court.  “Han Xizai” is actually a product of “painting-journalism” more than one thousand years ago. 

Lao Li is acted in “Lao Li” as “Lao Li”.  Chinese tends to address some one with the surname and add “Lao” as an honorific. Lao Li is actually Li Xianting.  He is one of the most influential contemporary art critics especially in the 1980’s and 90’s, when Chinese contemporary art was emerging.  He organised the most important exhibition “Xingxing Exhibition” and first used the terms “cynical realism” and “political pop” in China.  Wang Qingsong meticulously planned the photograph and replaced Han Xizai with Li Xianting addressed as “Lao Li”.  He commented on his work as follows:
“What has been haunting in my mind is the position and destiny Chinese intellectuals experience in our history. In such an era that lacks ideals, people have cast doubt on the heroes and ideals of the past. I wanted to catch some scenes that describe such loss of hopes replaced with hoarding desire for money and power. To compare the past and present, I appropriated the old and known masterpiece “Night Revel of Han Xizai” which was the best piece of Chinese traditional figure painting. This old art piece reflected the then social life in the torrents of transformation, and depicted the life of a worried intellectual and high official in Post-Tang Dynasty, Han Xizai. He was powerless to fulfil his ideals of reconstructing the country. To “cleanse” himself, he chose to evade and “indulge in” comfort. After several centuries, even though the Chinese dynasties have changed frequently, the status of intellectuals in society has remained the same. With some thoughts on this question, I created “Night Revel of Lao Li”. It is a portrait of contemporary Chinese reality in this new century, portraying the situation of contemporary Chinese people, and of intellectuals in particular”. (Wang, 2000)

Within the last three decades, contemporary art developed significantly in China.  Photography as an avant-garde medium is of no exception.  “Lao Li” is one of the milestones of China’s contemporary photographic art.  It is the epitome of photography as a mature art form.  In this dissertation, I will to use “Lao Li” as an example to de-construct China’s contemporary photographic art context by discussing China’s historical heritage, contemporary social, cultural, and political background, and some visual cultural theories underneath this work.  A proposed structure of the dissertation is as follows.

Chapter 1  Introduction                               (1000 words)
Chapter 2  Historical & Cultural Context    (2500 words)
Chapter 3  Image Analysis                          (1500 words)
Chapter 4  Theoretical Analysis                  (3000 words)
Chapter 5  Conclusion                                 (1500 words)

The Introduction gives a general outline of the issues and theories to be discussed.  It presents the structure of the dissertation and my findings as a summary.

As most of the readers are from western culture, as in this proposal will explain the historical background to lay essential foundations in order to understand the art works.

In Chapter 2, I will elaborate in even more detail.  I will not only explain social, cultural and historical milieu, but I will also discuss the medium specificity of Chinese painting.  Medium specificity decides the visual language.  At least more than 2300 years ago, (Zheng, 2005, p.29) Chinese art useed silk to paint and preserve images.  This tradition still has a strong impact in China’s contemporary art including photography. In this chapter, a short history of China’s contemporary art will also be laid out to help explain Wang Qingsong’s artistic development.

Chapter 3 will focus on a comparison of the image scenes and narratives between the two works.  It will explain how the narrative is built from this long hand scroll visual format.  It will explore how Wang Qingsong constructed the new version of “Han Xizai” and how contemporary elements and signifiers are created with the historical visual reference.

Chapter 4 will set out some of contemporary visual culture theories and analyse both images within these theoretical frameworks.  In Section 1 will discuss these with reference to Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1934) Craig Owens’s “The Allegorical Impulse” (1980), and Rosalind Krauss’s “The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths” (1985). Section 2 will focus on gaze and voyeurism drawing reference from Laura Mulvey’s “Visual and Other Pleasures” (1989) and other works from Christian Metz, Freud and Lacan.  Section 3 will discuss aspects of social identity aspects within our current globalisation context. 

While summarising the key foundings of the analysis of “Lao Li” in the last chapter, I will compare “Lao Li” with Jeff Wall’s “Picture for Woman” (1979).  I will argue that “Lao Li” in China contemporary photography is like “Picture for Woman” in western contemporary photography.  In addition to this east and western comparison analysis, There had been dozens of artists painted and appropriated the original “Han Xizai” in the last more than 1000 years. I will discuss these dozens of artworks to find some reflections for future China contemporary art development after “Lao Li”


Gao, Minglu (1998)  Inside Out: New Chinese Art. Berkeley: University of California Press

Lutgens, Annelie and Smith, Karen. (2005) The Chinese: Photography and Video from China.  Ostifildern: Hatje Cantz Publishers

Gu, Zheng (2011) Contemporary Chinese Photography.  Beijing: CYPI Press

Mulvey, Laura (1989) Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press

Owens, Craig, (1980) “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism.” (1992) in Scott Bryson, Barbara Kruger,Lynne Tillman,and Jane Weinstock eds., Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture. Berkeley : University of California Press.

Philips, Christopher (2004) ed. Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, New York: ICP

Sullivan, Michael (1977) The Arts of China. Berkeley: University of California Press

Wang, Peggy (2010) Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents. Durham: Duke University Press  

Wang, Qingsong (2000) Available at
Accessed: 03/03/2012.

Wu, Hung (1997) The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 

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Wu, Hung (2007) Making History: Wu Hung on Contemporary Chinese Art and Art Exhibition. HongKong: Timezone 8 

Zheng, Wei (2005) China Art History. Beijing: Beijing Publishing Group (In Chinese)

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