As I’ve been exalting in a week off as part of a desperate bid to bring my anual leave down to manageable levels I thought I’d pop into the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) and see what was on display.
My curiousity was rewarded by the Chinese Prints / China Today exhibition. Which, despite what the website says, signs at the gallery reckon will run to 29-AUG-05.
CMAG is a great place to go to get your head together, aesthetically pleasing and utterly deserted. The nice lady on the counter insists of looking after your bag for you which is mildly annoying (although not as annoying as the time I was asked for my motorbike helmet as I was trying to leave).
At the moment the walls of the main exhibition are covered with a selection of prints from 20th century China and the floor has pretty dull ceramics (although there are a couple, just a couple mind you, of gems).
If you’re not already a Chinese history enthusiast then there’s not much here for you bar the peace and quiet. But if you have an interest then it’s worthwhile.
The work progresses from the sort of prints we expect from traditional Chinese art. Goes through a maelstrom of change to the apocalypse of the cultural revolution. After which almost no Chinese identity remains.
The depiction of power poles and trams in Sichuan circa 1905 was a salutary reminder of the staggering wealth the nation enjoyed 100 years ago, despite its international weakness. The iconic nature of the steam train to modern china is also touching, and an important reminder of how similar people can be despite alien languages (OK, only if you yourself have a penchant for steam).
Sadly once the work moves beyond the 1970’s it could be any given high school’s art competition on show. But I suppose that’s the most striking thing about it.
It took me about half an hour to take in all the prints, not reading chinese sped things up of course, any fluent chinese readers keen to translate?
The ceramics you can probably do in 5 minutes unless you’re a nut for the form. you’ll find more daring, and cunningly worked examples at the Beaver Gallery. Like I said there are a couple of nice things amongst them.
The exhibition appears to have been organised by the Chinese embassy, which is nice of them.
A great improvement over the shoe collections of the Chief Minister’s friends.