Polytypic Evolution: A Close-up Observation
Fresh Vision 2014
Opening: Friday October 17, 2014, 5:30pm
Dates: October 17—November 20, 2014
Location: OCT Harbour Exhibition Site, Shenzhen
Address: O’Plaza, 8 East Baishi Lu, Nanshan District, Shenzhen
Host: OCAT Shenzhen
Support: Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Corporation Ltd.
Special Thanks: OCT Harbour
Curators: He Jing, Luan Zhichao
Participating Academies: China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University Academy of Art and Design, China Academy of Art, Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Hubei institute of Fine Arts, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts
Participating Artists: (in alphabetic order by name)
Chen Yihan, Dai Mo, JiaYunmeng, Li Menghua, LianPeiwei, Liu Ying, Lv Ye, NieHuixiang, QiaoQian, Sui Linghui, Wen Feifei, Wen Xiaotong, Wu Jiaru, Xiang Chen, Ye Wuji, You Huaming, Zhang Danyan, Zhang Wenchao, Zhang Xiaodi, Zhou Zijian, ZhuoZhipeng
Fresh Vision is an annual exhibition program founded in 2004. The 2014 Fresh Vision art project has invited independent curators He Jing and Luan Zhichao to jointly curate the exhibition. Between June and July, they visited the top ten Chinese art academies in Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Tianjin and other cities, attending their graduate exhibitions where they selected outstanding artists and artworks to form this exhibition. This exhibition follows the theme of “Polytyptic Evolution,” observing and presenting graduate thesis artworks from art academies across the country while using exhibition, publication and a series of lectures to present observations and thinking on the current state of Chinese art education. An important theme of this exhibition will be the analysis and critical discussion of the mechanisms and historical background of art education.
The exhibition takes its name from the ecological concept of “polytypic evolution,” which is the phenomenon of drastic change or evolution taking place simultaneously in multiple settings. After the year 2000, China’s art academies, faced with the changing shape and environment of Chinese contemporary art, felt the urgency of reforming and “evolving” the educational system that had been rooted in the “Soviet School” since the early days of modern China. Even in this relatively homogenous scene, the various schools and regions had differences in historical and developmental background, which some students and teachers have drawn from in providing shared specimens of possible ways to bring “evolution” to this ossified system. These practices were all aimed at reflecting on the current academic system and pulling it in a shared direction.
Thus, though the 2014 installment of Fresh Vision continues with the approach of observing graduate thesis artworks from art academies across the country, it no longer follows the traditional model of graduate exhibitions with its selection of works simply for being “outstanding.” On this level, “polytypic evolution” is a reference to the appearance of this exhibition: this exhibition does not give “equal representation” to all of the academies, and does not aim to provide a panoramic view into the graduate thesis works being created today. No matter how you approach it, this exhibition is more of a concentrated exploration into the possibilities of “evolution.” It is drawn from those educational approaches, training methods, dimensions of awareness and creative practices found at the various graduate exhibitions that express new voices and attitudes regarding the current mainstream education system, and thus lead us down reflexive lines of thinking resulting from up-close observation. They reconsider such conventions as the traditional departmental divisions between Chinese painting, oil painting, printmaking and sculpture; they examine the way in which the logic of dividing styles between realist and abstract, contemporary and pastoral, have come to restrict creative thinking and encourage bias; they emphasize the issues within the transition from a focus on “art students” to “professional art” in higher education; they reconsider the proportions and hierarchy of “imitation” and “creation” in teaching; and they cultivate awareness of “presentation” of artworks and training in methods. These threads outline the basic structure of the exhibition while also reflecting the basic attitudes and views of the curators in their selection of artworks.
In addition, “polytypic evolution” also refers to the multiple facets of the exhibition. Though the theme of the exhibition is one of observation, this exhibition also refuses to be merely descriptive in nature, and is infused with thinking about the issues and historical narrative of China’s art education system. Thus, the documentary portion of the exhibition, aside from presenting the construction and progression of China’s art education system, also shows that the issues we have observed are not only of the “present,” but also of the past and the future as well. While striving to point out problems, it will also outline the causes and sources of the problems in order to provide reflection and effective foundations for constructive change. Another segment of the exhibition, “In Academy: The Field of Creation, Education, Institution and History,” will consist of lectures and forums. These lectures and forums will present, in a concentrated manner, the discourse production of the Chinese art education system in hopes of producing new discourse and knowledge in the exhibition.
In this way, Polytypic Evolution is the examination and reflection on an era, presenting the thoughts and creations of young artists, and displaying discourse and writing on the Chinese art education system. Meanwhile, Polytypic Evolution is also an opening of experiences, sharing and inviting others to share their experiences, knowledge and perspectives on the art education system, and thereby outlining the concrete shape of this system and engaging in current, effective and constructive criticism and reflection.
The OCT Contemporary Art Terminal (OCAT) was founded in 2005, and was officially elevated to the level of a nationwide contemporary art museum group in April 2012. The museum’s headquarters is located in Shenzhen, with museum venues across the country, including OCAT Shenzhen, the OCT Art and Design Gallery, OCAT Shanghai, OCAT Xi’an, OCAT Beijing and OCAT Wuhan. As the group’s first facility, OCAT Shenzhen has long been devoted to researching the theory and practice of Chinese and international contemporary art. Since its inception, the museum’s curatorial, research and collecting work has focused on creations and ideas in art. Fresh Vision is now in its eleventh installment since it began in 2004.
About the Curators
He Jing is a researcher at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. She received a master’s degree in Contemporary Art Curation and Aesthetics from Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from Academy of Art and Design, Tsinghua University. She previously served as project director at the curatorial and consulting institution Perfect Crossovers; as joint curator for the collection exhibition of the Centre National Édition Art Image (CNEAI) in France; and participated in the curation of the 25th anniversary exhibitions of the Generali Foundation in Austria. She is a longtime contributor of critical and theoretical essays to such publications as LEAP, Artforum, Flash Art and Artouch.
Luan Zhichao received a master’s degree in Western literary theory and cultural studies from Beijing Foreign Studies University. She currently works at Art World Magazine, has written for many years on art, and takes part in the critical writing, translation and editing of publications for galleries and art institutions.