The first major UK exhibition of newly-commissioned outdoor sculpture by contemporary Chinese artists.
The phrase ‘A Beautiful Disorder’, which the Cass Sculpture Foundation has called its exhibition of monumental sculpture and installations that it has commissioned from 16 Chinese artists, comes from a letter written in 1743 by the artist and Jesuit missionary to China, Jean-Denis Attiret, in which he describes the gardens he encountered there. ‘Chinese gardeners,’ he noted, ‘are not only botanists, but also painters and philosophers [who] take nature for their pattern.’
It’s an apposite title for this show – the first of its kind in the UK – not least because so many of the participating artists trained in traditional Chinese ink painting with its minute focus on landscape, a subject that has become central to their practice. See Bi Rongrong, whose work Breath takes the form of a lawn into which she has made angular incisions that reveal the aluminium substructure on which the grass lies. This has been airbrushed with subtly gradated shades of brightly coloured paint. ‘When I make work for an exhibition, I always want to frame my work within the space,’ she says, ‘so here I wanted it to relate to the field’ where it will be shown.
If Bi’s work lies flush with the ground, then Harbin-born Wang Yuyang’s Identity – the most spectacular work here – extends six metres into the air. At first its form seems almost organic, redolent of a giant alien plant. In fact, the work is a commentary on Marxism. Wang has taken the text of Das Kapital and, using 3-D rendering and modelling software, transformed its text into a binary code that he has then used to determine the structure, a strangely beautiful multilayered arrangement of folds rendered in brass, red copper, iron, stainless steel, concrete, fibreglass and marble.