Body Language

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ZHANG Huan Untitled 1/2 1998 type C photograph Private collection, Melbourne. Copyright Zhang Huan

Coinciding with the politically fueled Beijing Olympics, Body Language: Contemporary Chinese Photography is currently on show at The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. A collaborative exhibition consisting of works by seven Chinese artists, Body Language focuses on the human form while fusing contemporary art forms with traditional iconography, representing China’s changing society.

Zhang Huan‘s Shanghai Family Tree series uses the body as a canvas for calligraphy; Huang Yan paints traditional mountainous scenery upon torsos while Liu Wei‘s Landscape photographs use black and white images of contorted figures to resemble hanging scrolls. Within Chi Peng‘s evocative Consubstantiality series, gender boundaries are blurred, while Wang Qingsong‘s triptych Preincarnation depicts figures dressed as ancient statues with missing limbs.

Artist Sheng Qi is said to have cut off his own left pinky finger in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre. He then buried it in a flowerpot, leaving it in China while he fled to Europe. His Memories series, which appears in Body Language, portrays his disfigured hand holding a photo of himself, his mother and Mao. Qi studied at The Central Academy of Art and Design, Beijing and Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, London. He has exhibited widely on an international scale at places including N.O. Gallery, Milan, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland and Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver.

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