I passed Wuhan’s museum of contemporary art on the way in from the airport. I’m extremely fond of contemporary Chinese sculpture, so I went to look. How wide is contemporary art in China? In Beijing and Shanghai I’d seen photography, paintings, calligraphy, as well as metal and ceramic sculpture. During a brief chat in Shanghai with a ceramics artist called Liu Ping, I discovered that the art of porcelain has been transformed by the new glazes which utilize the new high-temperature kilns.
My acquaintance with Chinese art is so new that I was sure I would find interesting new media in Wuhan. I was not disappointed: the ground floor contains a gallery of video installations. They ranged from the extreme abstract to ones which had the look of modern animation cartoons. I liked one in which a video was projected from inside on to a spherical paper lantern (photo on the left). A gallery on the second floor had beautiful lacquer work. This is something I don’t know much about, so I was not sure what was new about the pretty pieces which I saw.
The sculptures were as innovative as those I’ve seen elsewhere. There was a field of paper mushrooms (above) stretching out to great distances. It was a sculptural equivalent of calligraphy. The form of each of the mushrooms was fairly well fixed: the artist did not invent a new type of mushroom each time he rolled the paper. The art was in how the whole was put together. You could step back and look at the scale of the whole thing, in which case you did not see each figure. Or you could bend down and look at each mushroom, and lose sight of the whole.
There was a stunning piece of woodwork elsewhere: a long table with a steamship sailing through it. The wooden steamship belches out wooden smoke, and throws up a wooden wake as it plows through a wooden sea. My dinky little phone does not really do justice to the sculpture. Part of the fun is in the fact that it is a long table, which could be usable as a table. The far end of the piece (not seen in the photo) looks just like an ordinary, but good, piece of furniture. You might admire the grain and the polish, but you could just use it as a table. The other end of the long piece is the end in the photo above. The juxtaposition of the ordinary and the unexpected is part of the fun here.
I’m sure I have other photos. More about Chinese art as I discover them.