One of the parameters of this semesters assignment is that I may only choose two artists from any single country. For the most part this is no problem. There are many great artists in the world and looking for inspiration is a wonderful opportunity for growth. In the case of China though this is a real sacrifice. So many of the artists making work I admire most are Chinese. So then to choose two, was actually a choice for second. My favorite Chinese artist and possibly my favorite working artist right now is Ai Weiwei.
Seems beyond the reach of an assignment to speak of favorites to emotional connection as I did in the last post, but I think this is exactly what this type of study demands of an artist. We must take art personally, and deeply so that it can penetrate us enough to change us, as makers and people. So a great artist then makes work that demands that we as viewers take them seriously. If the work is compelling, we cannot help ourselves, we look, and if we take the time needed, we see something of our world or ourselves that we may not have been aware of before.
I think that the work of Ai Weiwei does exactly that. In his deep collaboration with Chinese culture and history, we find something universal and true for all of us. The work discussed in this video documents an installation called Sunflower Seeds. The work is at once intimate and vast. Each piece receiving so much attention, though there are millions of them. The work’s content is beautiful and yet manages to be powerfully political at the same time. The name of a single artist is on the piece yet it was made by an entire village. The work of Ai Weiwei reminds me of what art is capable and demands that I push myself to find that power in my own work. So please take the 15 minutes to watch the beautifully produced video and maybe find some inspiration for yourself.
Another body of work that I really respond to are his pots, replicas of ancient Chinese vessels that take a modern twist. These pots, based on something incredibly rare and precious become absurd billboards. This intersection I think is incredibly stimulating as I am constantly considering how to keep pots relevant as the focus of the ceramic world becomes fine art and the importance of craft diminishes daily. Not only this but the layering of meaning and idea is rich and invites me to consider deeply not just the ancient pot or the company logo, but a world in which both those things could be so intimately connected.
Below is a link to a great New Yorker article on the artist if more information is wanted. His work is vast and I have only scratched the surface of its potential here.
And to ensure that my own rules are followed, the tech piece. Here is a link to his twitter account, seemingly his main medium now, though I do not know exactly what that means so I will not make a specific comment other than It has been vital for his work in resisting the current Chinese government.