CHINESE FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY IN HONG KONG
Chinese artist Xing Danwen’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong titled ‘In a perfect world…’ at the Ooi-Botos gallery in Wan Chai has been the subject of extensive media coverage recently, which is itself an extraordinary feat in the competitive contemporary art world.
However, Xing Danwen is an extraordinary Chinese artist, exceptional because she has been working with artistic photography before it was considered an art form in China, and frankly, she is a woman.
While the art world has largely been a man’s game in China, this strong feminine artistic voice, touted by Kee Magazine as “one of China’s leading female artists”, was a pioneer in Chinese photography and is now turning more than a few heads in Hong Kong with her two photo series Duplication and Urban Fiction.
Xing Danwen was trained as a painter in Beijing at the prestigious Central Academy of Art, but is best known for her photographic works completed during her M.F.A. residency at the School of Visual Arts in New York. However, prior to that, she was an artist and traveling freelance photojournalist, which included travels to remote regions of China to document villagers and members of China’s 56 ethnic minorities.
Although her creative interests had shifted from painting to photography, she did not consider the potential of her photo work to be fine art until her late 20’s. In an interview with Art in America, she reveals that upon seeing the work of Wolfgang Tillmans, featuring life-like shots of bohemian youth, she realized, “If his pictures could be art, maybe mine could be, too.”
However, Xing does not cite any specific influences that drew her to photography. She states:
“Photography was a coincidence. I never had any influences that drew me towards photography. For me, art was very simply painting or sculpture, because they were very classical forms of art and all I had seen.”
One of the series of works on display at Ooi Botos is Xing’s Duplication (2003), featuring photographs of objects witnessed during the artist’s travels through the manufacturing regions in Southern China. It remarks on the effects of globalization on a region and the individual, which effectually lose their identity. On her subject matter, she says:
“My work is about human beings and the world. I’m sure you find universal language in my work but at the same time you find identity in where I came from. My inspiration and ideas are all based on my life experience in China or on being Chinese throughout the world.” [Kee]
Also on display at ‘In a perfect world…’ is Xing’s series entitled Urban Fiction, created in 2004. For this, the artist focused on portraying the individual in his or her own environment. However, the subject is presented through realistic photographs of scale-models of building developments, complete with models of miniature people doing various activities, which creates a surreal effect that tricks the eye. On her decision to do this, she says:
“When I started this work it was clear to me that this subject was nothing new. There has been a lot of successful artwork done already by very well-known, established artists. For artists it’s important to create original work, so I decided to use the fake to talk about reality.”[Kee]
Xing’s recent media coverage has included articles in the following publications:
Art in America, Xing Danwen by Richard Vine. Feb 5, 2010
Muse, Seeing things her way by Koon-Yee Wan. Dec 2010
South China Morning Post, Model Citizen by Kevin Kwong. Dec 8, 2009
Vogue China, Blooming in Art, August 2009
Yishu: The Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Xing Danwen: Revealing the Masquerade of Modernity. July/Aug 2009
Kee Magazine, Identity Check, Jan 2010
Ming Magazine, Xing Danwen: On the Subtraction Philosophy, October 2009
City Magazine, The Flaneur, Jan 2010
Time Out Hong Kong, Interview with Xing Danwen, Nov 25, 2009
‘In a perfect world…’ runs at the Ooi Botos gallery in Hong Kong from Nov 27,2009- March 6, 2010.
- Trends and opportunities in the contemporary photography market– Oct 09
- Women emerge onto the Beijing art scene – International Herald Tribune– Aug 08
- Book: Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Things You Should Know– Oct 08
- China to use “soft power” of arts for international influence– Jan 2010