Jannis Kounellis "Translating China" at Today Art Museum--Photo Gallery

TEXT:Sue Wang    DATE: 2011.11.23

Reflecting Mr. Kounellis’ thoughts on China, this exhibition witnesses the whole new works made by Jannis Kounellis, the famous Arte Povera master from Italy. Titled "Translating China" and curated by Huang Du, it gives full play to Mr. Kounellis’ analysis of  Chinese society and culture, manifesting the inner connection among the reality, tradition, memory and context in China. It was ceremoniouly opened at  Today Art Museum on November 19th and CAFA ART INFO is honored to bring you its on-the-spot report with photographs.

When entering the second floor of the Today Art Museum, you may be shocked by a huge installation as Jannis Kounellis has arrayed a number of iron boxes in an architectural form like a Greek pattern or crenels of the Great Wall with a heap of coal at its top, irregularly hung with an iron board inlaid with porcelain pieces in various sizes, resulting in an image that is full of a solemn sense of power. 11 pieces of planar installations are scattered in the subsidiary exhibition hall where he respectively utilizes materials from China: lanterns, military coats, brushes, hemp bags, etc. The third floor encompasses three sections of Kounellis’ works: the first section is composed of 9 iron tables collaged in the shape of “K” with more than 4,600 small transparent glasses filled with Chinese liquor; the second section is a series of clothes composed of 24 parts, Kounellis has fixed a variety of clothes in different colors on iron plates with iron wire; the third section is the document of Kounellis: 47 screen prints from images of his important works created from 1966 to 2005 and 5 documentaries of Kounellis.

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As its curator, Huang Du commented, “Kounellis always focuses on black and white, thus it’s his first time to have so many rich colors in his creations.” Different from his previous exhibitions, it features Kounellis’ specific and unique design of showcasing according to the space of the Today Art Museum, which emphasises the relationship between artistic works and an exhibition space. In addition to this, all the works exhibiting in the Today Art Museum are all completed in Beijing and these new works reflect Kounellis’on-the-spot investigation, profound thought and analysis of China, especially his interpretation of China in simple terms which shows his vivid grasp of the internal relations among reality, traditions, memory and the context. He attaches great importance to some interesting stuff he came across, such as the porcelain pieces he bought immediately as creative materials when he discovered them at the antique market in Beijing. In his view, the porcelain (material) itself is a language and concept, such as the written language, which constitutes the main elements of the work at an audience’s discretion to imagine, think and judge. Contrasted with the way Chinese artists believe the broken porcelain represents a kind of criticism, Kounellis is driven by a love to collect broken porcelain pieces and restore them to their formal meaning. Subjectively, he processes them into an elegant form as if they are entrusted with a visual rhythm like letters of an alphabet and music scores.