Heavy Artillery is the latest offering from White Rabbit Gallery. Drawn from founder and director Judith Neilson’s ever-expanding collection, the show features more than 30 videos, paintings, drawings, sculptures and multimedia installations by Chinese artists.
With a title like Heavy Artillery, you may expect to see artworks with militaristic overtones or artworks that critique war and the abuse of force. The latter can be seen clearly in He Xiangyu’s Tank Project, 2011–2013, a life-sized tank made from leather. Deflated and discarded, it resembles the shed skin of a snake. What was once mobile and menacing is now harmless and redundant.
But Heavy Artillery doesn’t focus specifically on military machinations. “The exhibition is more about mass and scale than about armed conflict as such,” says Neilson. “Many of the works in the show are very large, dominating the gallery spaces. In that sense, they are bound to have a strong impact, though perhaps not quite on the order of artillery!”
“Chinese art schools have exceptionally high entrance standards. Students have no chance of getting a place unless they can do meticulously realistic drawings, mix paints to exact shades, and skilfully wield notoriously wayward Chinese calligraphy brushes. So most artists (even non-graduates) accept that beauty takes work,” Neilson explains.
“In addition, contemporary artists, especially those who dream on a grand scale, have no trouble enlisting teams of artisans and other workers, becoming in effect overseers of art factories.”
From Xu Zhen’s multiple faux-marble figures standing 4.5 metres high (produced by MadeIn Company) to Hsu Yung-Hsu’s triptych of thousands of porcelain sculptures and the Yves Klein blue, 40-square-metre room filled with books by Polit-Sheer-Form-Office, there are plenty of grand visions on view in Heavy Artillery.
White Rabbit Gallery
9 March – 7 August