Two exhibitions by Chinese artists at the White Cube in Bermondsey and Mason’s Yard present interesting perspectives on contemporary Chinese scultpural art. There is a synergistic link between the exhibitions in that both artists make use of a variety of “found” materials, most of which would not naturally be considered a base for sculpture, but from which both artists have created works of great beauty and contemplation.
At Bermondsey, He Xiangyu’s work is displayed in his first solo exhibition in the UK. The base materials include boiled down Coca Cola which is displayed as if an ancient meteorite or rock formation in the Natural History Museum, luxury Italian leather sewn together to create a full-size military tank, with the leather being the protective shell instead of steel and his own wisdom teeth made into the model of a small Chinese pagoda. Further connections with the artist’s body are found in the installation “Everything We Create is Not Ourselves” where the visitor is invited to interact, move, touch and explore small copper casts created by the artist feeling the inside of his mouth with his tongue and then translating this into sculptural forms.
At Mason’s Yard is “Density” is a stunning exhibition of the work of Beijing-based artist Liu Wei who focusses on urban and architectural themes in his work. He uses materials that he finds around the city, mostly on building sites, and transforms them into geometrical installations such as the three dimensional sculpture made from books, iron and wood and the architectural wall-sculptures – creating works of precise geometry and great beauty from something that society has thrown away. His work highlights how modern society and urban infrastructure can evolve and also the missed opportunities of things that are thrown away and could be reused. All it takes is imagination!