30 AUGUST 2017 – 28 JANUARY 2018
Chinese art was once regarded as a gift from the gods. Artists were conduits between earth and heaven; their aim was not just to capture the beauty of nature but to convey its vital “breath”. Many were recluses or monks, for whom painting and calligraphy were spiritual exercises. But that was long ago, in a China where the “three teachings” of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism suffused every aspect of life.
China today is a different country, where the official “religion” is atheism and most people are too busy making a living to spare much thought for their soul. But interest in spirituality is growing, as is the freedom to pursue it. For some contemporary artists, faith fills a personal need. “I grew up without religion,” says Tianzhuo Chen, a Buddhist. “I think that is one of the reasons I have this longing to believe.” Even for atheists or sceptics, the symbols of religion tap into deep wells of cultural memory and human meaning.
“Art is not like science,” says Gade. “It is concerned with the soul, the spiritual world.” Ni Youyu is not religious, but he thinks “a good artwork should have a sense of the divine”; otherwise, “it is just a pile of paint”. Zheng Guogu believes ideas and imagery from Tibetan Buddhism give “a new dimension” to his work. Other artists put religious symbols in outrageously secular contexts to mock the modern gods of money, power and pleasure.
The artists in RITUAL SPIRIT do not seek to raise man into heaven. But all are trying, in one sense or another, to bring the gods down to earth.
RITUAL SPIRIT is drawn completely from Judith Neilson’s renowned White Rabbit Collection.
CURATOR: David Williams
Please click on the artists’ names below to discover more information about each artist and their work.
Precious Objects, 2007,
stone pigments and gold on fabric,
200 x 115 cm
LUXURY LOGICO (TAIWAN)
light installation, dimensions variable
Ishvara, 2016, video, 2 hrs 4 min
Marble Painting 3 and 4, 2016,
marble, each 180 x 135 cm
#Air #Swag, 2015,
wool rug, 3 x 480 x 400 cm
LED lights, steel, 140 x 302 x 25 cm
video, 2 min 53 sec
iron, found objects, spray paint,
300 x 90 x 130 cm
Dust (Thomas Ruff: 16h 30m –50°), 2016, chalk and glue on blackboard,
193 x 280 cm; sketch, 37 x 55 cm
New English Calligraphy—Spring, River, and Flowers on a Moonlit Night, 2012
ink on paper, 277 x 588 cm