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Christchurch City Council Media Release 18 June, 1998

First Major Exhibition Of New Art From China On View At The Robert McDougall Art Gallery

Reckoning with the Past: Contemporary Chinese Painting

1 July - 6 September 1998

Curated for The Fruit Market Gallery in Edinburgh as part of the 1996 Edinburgh International Festival, Reckoning with the Past is an exhibition of contemporary Chinese painting bringing together the work of 15 of China’s leading contemporary artists.

Nostalgia, Curator Chang Tsong-zung says, sets the mood in many of the works in this exhibition. The urgent need to reckon with the past, a search for identity and the desire to re-interpret and re-invent one’s past is mixed with a yearning for history and continuity. These are the underlying themes which tie the artists together in what is the first exhibition of its kind to visit New Zealand. Chang Tsong-zung says the exhibition explores the myth of cultural continuity, which has always been at the heart of ‘Chinese-ness’, and the present sense of a lack of direction which is creating deep anxiety. The exhibition also deals with the issue of incorporating contemporary art within a history of modern china.

Since 1989, contemporary Chinese art has come a long way and is now in a phase of renewed creativity inspired by the avant-gardism of the west and driven by a growing reaction against the idealism of the intellectual movement of the 1980s.

The cultural break from imperial China in the early 1900s saw the adoption of a Western calendar, Western clothing and Western science and the shaping of China’s modern character. The early Republican years, the Mao era and the cultural revolution which followed are the predominant period references which capture the artists’ imagination in this collection of work. The artists in this exhibition come from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"In the artist’s attempt to create integral ties with the past, we see ephemeral landmarks and events explored in psychological depth and charged with a timeless aura."

(Chang Tsong-zung)

This selection of art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong highlights the different approaches to the problems of a Chinese identity and what ‘modernity’ means for the country’s culture. While the lack of an identity or sense of place is addressed by the Hong Kong and Taiwanese artists, the Chinese artists in the exhibition wrangle with disillusions of the present and, what Chang Tsong-zung calls, the annihilation of their cultural heritage.

"The brooding review of the past as reflected in art from this exhibition should serve as a warning. In time, China will regret the losses, and it will be our descendants who will blame us for the lack of foresight."

(Chang Tsong-zung)

ASIA 2000 in association with the Robert McDougall Art Gallery presents Reckoning with the Past - Contemporary Chinese Painting

which is supported by Creative New Zealand

The Robert McDougall Art Gallery, located in the Botanic Gardens, is the country’s most visited public art gallery featuring regularly changing exhibitions of international and New Zealand historical and contemporary art. Hours are 10 am. to 4.30 pm. Free admission and guided tours are available daily on request

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Accompanying Public Programme

Thursday, 2 July, 5 pm. Teachers’ Preview:

Reckoning with the Past.

Tickets $5. Bookings essential

Tel. 941 6973. Please use night entrance from Rolleston Ave.

Sunday, 5 July, 11 am. Lecture - Chinese Civilisation & Culture

Dr Jock Hoe, retired lecturer from Massey University will give an illustrated lecture at the Gallery. Please use main entrance.

Thursday, 9 July, 6 pm. Chinese Calligraphy.

Jin Qiangfu demonstrates traditional techniques and materials in the art of Chinese calligraphy. Please use night entrance from Rolleston Ave.

Sunday, 19 July, 11 am. Lecture.

Keiko Tanaka, Sociologist at the University of Canterbury, will speak on "Hopes and dreams for our future - conversations with college students in the People’s Republic of China".

Thursday, 23 July, 1 pm. Floortalk.

Gallery Education Officer, Ann Betts will give a floortalk on Reckoning with the Past. Meet in the Centre Court.

Saturday, 29 August, 2 pm. Concert of traditional Chinese music

In the Gallery’s Centre Court.

Sunday, 30 August, 1 pm. Chinese Lion Dance.

Traditional dances and routines. At the Gallery.

All public programmes listed here are free to attend.

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