Entertainment » Vol. 5

The Two Chinas Evoke a Terrible Beauty

Yun-Fei Ji - Below the 143 Meter Watermark, 2006

Yun-Fei Ji - Below the 143 Meter Watermark, 2006

By Cherie Ronayne

This hauntingly beautiful yet disturbing exhibit examines the rapidly changing conditions in China through the eyes of Chen Qiulin and Yun-Fei Ji, two young Chinese artists whose works were recently acquired by Worcester Art Museum.

Both artists have trained their creative eye upon the Three Gorges Dam – a massive, ongoing project that has caused the flooding of cities and villages and the displacement of millions of people of their native country.

Chen Qiulin, using video, paints a moving commentary, juxtaposing China’s history and it’s future, while deconstructing the epic project in her homeland, which has been called a “great cultural destruction in Chinese history.” Qiulin, who currently lives and works in Chengdu, was inspired to document the dramatic upheaval of her hometown of Wanzhou, which she visited in 2002. She translates the enormous magnitude of the urban project into video collages that capture sights and sounds of a city in rubble against the high drama and beauty of the opera “Farewell My Concubine,” as actors prepare for their roles. The effect is unforgettable.

Yun-Fei Ji’s work, Below the 143 Meter Watermark, is an epic, massive watercolor that moves from a delicate to strong touch in traditional ink washes on mulberry paper. It illustrates his view of the project and the altered landscapes. Ji, born in Beijing but currently residing in Brooklyn, traveled to the Three Gorges area in 2001 and was struck by the dramatic juxtaposition between the old and new as the project continues to force urbanization on the area.

As commentary on the Three Gorges Dam project, both artists felt compelled to speak for “the millions of silenced people who cannot express their sadness and speak against this project. Think of the lost cultural history, art and destruction of the natural river.“

Ellisis's Series No. 3, 2002 - Chen Qiulin

Chen Qiulin - Ellisis's Series No. 3, 2002

The project spans the Yangtze River in Sandouping, Yichang, Hubei, China, and is considered the world’s most notorious dam, setting a record for the most people displaced at 1.3 million, with 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages flooded. The dam was first proposed by Sun Yat-sen in 1919 and again by Mao Tse-tung in the ’50s, with construction beginning in earnest in 1994 at Sandouping. When completed, the Three Gorges Dam will be world’s largest hydroelectric dam with a total electric generating capacity of 22,500 megawatts.

The Two Chinas exhibit is at the Worcester Art Museum until September 21. For more information on either artist or the Two Chinas exhibit, visit www.worcesterart.org.

About the Artists

Chen Qiulin was born in 1975 in Hubei, China and graduated from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 2000. Chen has exhibited in China, Europe and the United States. Yun-Fei Ji was born in 1963 in Beijing, China and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 1982. Ji came to the United States on a Fulbright scholarship in 1986 to study at the University of Arkansas, receiving an MFA in 1989. He currently resides in Brooklyn and regularly exhibits throughout the United States and Europe.

Yun-Fei Ji - The Dead Can Still Dance, 2006

Yun-Fei Ji - The Dead Can Still Dance, 2006

Chen Qiulin - images from: Tofu, 2004 - performance on video

Chen Qiulin - images from: Tofu, 2004 - performance on video

Chen Qiulin - images from: Tofu, 2004 - performance on video

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