Landmarks Across Europe Honour the Eu-china Tourism Year
More than 50 landmarks, iconic sites and venues across Europe turned a shade of red over the past weekend to build a symbolic bridge of light to China honouring the 2018 EU- China Tourism Year (ECTY). From renowned UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Pont du Gard in France to lesser-known monumental building such as the National Athenaeum in Bucharest (Romania), a host of sites in 18 countries took part in the initiative. Cultural events involving both local and Chinese communities accompanied the illumination of the landmarks in several locations, such as on the memorable Grand Place in Brussels (Belgium). The latter hosted an exhibition of giant Chinese lanterns and a concert of traditional Chinese music organised by the
façade Chinese Mission to the EU, along with the special illumination of the of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) in red.
The pan-european celebration entitled “The Eu-china Light Bridge” is an initiative of the European Commission in cooperation with the European Travel Commission (ETC), numerous municipal councils, cultural institutions and tourism boards in Europe. The Light Bridge aimed at increasing awareness of lesser known European destinations in China as well as to provide an opportunity for European and Chinese communities to better familiarise and appreciate each other’s cultures. The initiative coincided with the celebration of the Lantern Festival in China which marks the end of the New Year’s festivities. The Chinese pillar of the Light Bridge will be built on 9th May 2018 at the invitation of China National Tourism Administration and on the occasion of “Europe Day”, with a number of Chinese sites including the famous Macao Tower illuminated in the blue of the EU flag.
This Light Bridge is part of the ambitious programme of activities prepared for the Eu-china Tourism Year. The ECTY aims to promote the European Union as a travel destination in China, provide opportunities to increase bilateral cooperation as well as mutual understanding and create an incentive to make progress on market opening and visa facilitation.
Europe saw a remarkable 16% increase in tourist arrivals from China in 2017, reaching a record 13.4 million arrivals. The ETC forecasts an average 9.3% annual growth in tourist arrivals in Europe over the next three years.
Widely acclaimed as one of the most distinctive pa inter s of her generation, Cai Jin first attracted critical attention in the early 1990s with her paintings of meirenjiao (translated as “Banana Plant”). Inspired by a dying plant that she saw in her native Anhui province in 1990, she has painted close to 400 variations on this theme between 1991 and the present day, not only in oil on canvas but also on other materials and objects, including mattresses, bathtubs, shoes, and bicycle saddles.
For her first exhibition at the gallery, Return to the Source, in 2013 Cai Jin moved away from her signature theme and the predominant red tonality of her paintings to a lighter, more joyful evocation of what she loosely referred to as “landscapes” even although her visual language was entirely abstract. Her paintings of this pe- riod were lighthearted in feeling, equivalent to the emergence of Rococo from the Baroque in European art.
Arcadia differs in all respects from this festive interlude in which Cai Jin celebrated the expansiveness of her vision in a series of canvases both large and small. It is no longer merely the growth and decay of the meirenjiao that provides the subject matter of her painting; she has now begun to incorporate imagery representing the microscopic bacteria that are involved in both processes of the Banana plant’s biological transformation transformation. It is not easy to say whether the bacteria are harmful or beneficial, and it is this ambiguity that is just as likely to cause a frisson of pleasure as it is of fear. Turning away from rectangular canvases, she ord ordered 120 bicycle saddles and 300 high-h high-heel shoes on which to paint, not the first firs time she has used them but certainly nev never in such
quantity. Responding t to the lay- out of the gallery, she has orchestrated a dialog between shoes and saddles in the East Gallery, saddles climbing the wall in a random pattern and shoes scattered across the floor as if all their wearers have evaporated into thin air.
Contrasting with the East Gallery the darkened West Gallery houses three bathtubs on to which are projected images of meirenjiao and bacteria. In the small gallery a lava-like flow of pink matter appears to be inundating the space, halffilling a damaged basin while a mattress, a pair of Mary Janes, and a knitted hood float forlornly on the surface.
Now more than ever it is not possible to give a rational explanation of Cai Jin’s idiosyncratic artistic practice. The fact that she has always resisted offering explanations adds to the mysterious allure of her work that affects viewers at a visceral level. The immersive environments that Cai Jin has created in Arcadia may be seen as a way of eliciting an even more direct response from her audience, no longer viewers but participants.
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British artist Michael Dean’s first solo exhibition in China on 24 March stamped with the character and concrete syntax of public spaces, takes as its starting point the recent proliferation and prominence of pictorial language and the text-based communication of emotion via our digital devices, and explores how the ambiguity of these has enabled them to take on a range of culturally specific meanings and spaces beyond their intended use.
The exhibition ‘Analogue LOL’, developed through a year long discussion between curator Victor Wang and artist Michael Dean, is centred on the construction of common spaces and the evolution of the acronym LOL (laughing out loud), and its recent development into the emoji officially known as ‘Face with Tears of Joy’. Somewhere between picture and word, in 2015 this emoticon became the first pictograph to be named ‘word of the year’ by Oxford Dictionaries, signalling a shift in the application, use and reception of language. This exhibition continues to 13 May. The layout of the exhibition begins with a single page: blank, with slightly curved edges, its flat white face becoming the unmarked vinyl floor of the Shanghart gallery, and Dean’s re-appropriated security tape regulating the assembly of LOLS occupying the gallery. Dean’s work is often described as sculpture, but it is not sculpture in a traditional sense. Dean traces the restlessness of inner-city living and the human emotions that spring from its cracked concrete surfaces. Each of Dean’s artworks and exhibitions, including this one, begins with words and letters that he has written. However, these words and emotions have shed their skin, distorted by misuse and rearrangement, much like the posture of a minimum-wage employee moulded by the unrestrained hands of the city. Transformed from ink and lead, these charged artworks are cast and moulded from the same construction materials that were used to redevelop Shanghai’s West Bund, and that connect the joints of the city, and its public spaces to its hosts. With its torn pages and hand mixed hand placed coloured concrete, the exhibition opens up a space between language, social space and the pictorial transformation of both, using the architecture of LOL and the visual field of construction to amass an unregulated gathering of speech and laughter which both intrudes on and slows down the rapid governance of language and space. Image-based emotions in the twenty-first century provide the foundation for an international written and visual mode of expression that has inevitably complicated the divide between visual images and verbal language.
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