Let’s take a moment and pretend that you are blind and completely unaware of what an elephant is.
Now imagine that your hand is placed on, for example, the leg of an elephant. You might be led to think that the leg is the elephant. However, if another blind person touches the trunk of the animal, he might think that this trunk is the elephant. The philosophical idea within this Chinese parable states that one, objective ‘truth’ doesn’t exist. In some ways we are all, more or less, blind, unable to know what the entire ‘truth’ is.
The same image of the elephant is applicable to the Chinese art world. If you look at what is being presented as contemporary art, in exhibitions, in galleries, at auctions, one could be under the impression that only the realistic art, that has been booming over the past 20 years, is Chinese art… But there is so much more!
German photographer/artist Christoph Fein and Dutch art collector ‘Lao Fu’ went on an explorative trip to China. Both the exhibition in the Singer Museum and this catalogue show the result of their investigation: ‘ein Kunst-Erfahrungsbericht’. The exhibition as well as the catalogue present a different image, another side of contemporary Chinese art and its artists; a different part of the (art) elephant. Over the last decade mainstream Chinese art has developed like fast food: widely available, quickly made, of poor quality, easy to consume, generic and not really nourishing. It may provide you with some superficial satisfaction, but it doesn’t give you any vitamins; thoughts, inspiration. The artists that are presented in this exhibition and catalogue have chosen a different path.
The exhibition shows contemporary Chinese abstract art. However, within abstract art, infinite variations in style and technique exist. The same goes for the artworks presented in this collection.
The term ‘slow’ represents the way in which the artists work; they use endless repetitive brush strokes, executed with great care and craftsmanship. The process of making the art is as important as the end result. The artworks have a calming effect on the viewer, which is amplified by the use of only a limited number of colors. As a viewer you have to take your time, you have to learn how to observe ‘slow’.
‘Slow’ also refers to the speed of modern China as well as its contemporary art scene, in which the focus seems to be on having the largest studio, mass-producing art, becoming rich and famous etc. The artists presented in this exhibition share, besides their working methods, the fact that they question this development.