Your Guide to Gallery Weekend Beijing

From Feng Lianghong’s coloured abstractions at N3 Contemporary Art to a survey of Werner Büttner at Triumph Gallery

BY Nooshfar Afnan in Critic's Guides , Reviews Across Asia | 27 JUN 22

‘ReBirth: Encounter with Nature’

Choi Centre Cloud House

26 April – 31 July

'ReBirth: Encounter with Nature', Choi Center Cloud House, 2022, exhibition view
'ReBirth: Encounter with Nature', 2022, exhibition view. Courtesy: Choi Centre Cloud House

Curated by Bérénice Angrémy, this group exhibition featuring both European and Chinese artists explores humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Huang Rui’s painting series ‘One River’ (2021–22), for instance, is inspired by Eastern and Western philosophies about water, while Charlotte Charbonnel’s video installation, Tears of the Earth (Prelude) (2021), documents the explosive interaction of fire and earth elements in a lava flow. In ‘The Prophecy’ (2013–22), Fabrice Monteiro’s powerfully staged photographs of half-humans, half-deities in shattered land- and seascapes warn of the catastrophic consequences of our exploitative practices. Elsewhere, in The Study of Traces (2019–ongoing), Wiktoria explores the restorative power of plants and stones and the gentle imprints they can leave on the body through performance, videos and photographs. And Vanja Bučan questions our idealization of nature in her photographic series ‘Sequences of Truth and Deception’ (2015–19). Fittingly, the show’s venue is a modern structure that incorporates salvaged building materials from both the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing dynasties (1644–1911).


798 Art District

24 June – 3 July

Giovanni Ozzola, Red curtain, 2021 250 x 366cm Shine ink color, tempered glass
Giovanni Ozzola, Red curtain, 2021, shine ink colour and tempered glass, 1.5 × 3.7 m. Courtesy: the artist and Galleria Continua

An excellent introduction to what Beijing’s contemporary art scene has to offer, ‘Crosstalk’ is the result of a close collaboration between artists, participating galleries and young curators from the non-profit institutions UCCA and Inside-Out Art Museum. ‘Close Viewing’, curated by Neil Zhang and Jiashu Zou (UCCA), contains works by Beijing-based artists that draw on their memories and personal experiences of the city. Zhang Xuerui’s textile installation Bamboo Canes (2016–19), for example, is informed by her childhood recollections of her grandfather’s cane and explores recycled clothes as containers of memory. In his video, Burning of Zhizhu Temple (2019), Chu Bingchao interviews nearby residents about their experiences of the titular fire in the 1960s, although their recollections offer conflicting narratives. Li Nu’s Wave After Wave (2016) – comprising an exploded pink balloon, a metal tank and a hose – evokes the mounting pressures of the world, while Liang Hao’s series of crude, interlocking, camphor-wood sculptures, ‘Untitled’ (2020–22), provides a raw and powerful presence. 

Installed in a room lacking natural light, the section ‘Towards Darkness’ – curated by Wenlong Huang and Yichuan Zhang (Inside-Out Art Museum) – offers a counterpoint to ‘Close Viewing’. Drawing on passages from Lu Xun’s collection of prose poetry, Wild Grass (1927), dark themes such as death, violence and cruelty abound: Tong Tianqing’s graphic ink and watercolour Cremation (2022), for instance, or Chen Dandizi’s video I’m Awake Tonight (2021), which shows animals in stillness just moments before being shot. Elsewhere, Yang Guangnan’s large, stained-aluminium sculpture, Path 202101 (2021), purposefully blocks the audience’s way. The curators also collaborated with the Beijing branches of international galleries that exhibit foreign artists, such as Giovanni Ozzola, whose photographic installation Red Curtain (2021) depicts a crimson-hued room in which the brutality of the world has been blocked out behind closed blinds.

Feng Lianghong 

N3 Contemporary Art

8 May – 23 July

Feng Lianghong Solo Exhibition「Forest Hills」Installation View, 2022.
Feng Lianghong, ‘Forest Hills’, 2022, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and N3 Contemporary Art, Beijing

Juxtaposing the large-scale, colour abstractions for which Feng Lianghong is, perhaps, best known is a series of small works in black ink and acrylic, titled ‘Forest Hills’ (all 2020) after the neighbourhood in which the artist lived while stranded in New York at the outset of the pandemic. Lack of studio space during lockdown forced Feng to work on sketching paper, using two adjoining pieces to increase the available surface area. The nature of Korean ink deepens the sombre mood of these diptychs. Recent abstractions in oil, such as 18-1-20 (2018–22), continue the monochrome theme. The standout piece is White 15-3 (2015), in which specks of bright oranges and blues peek through the predominantly white and grey composition, hearkening back to happier times.

Werner Büttner 

Triumph Gallery

24 June – 21 August

Werner Buttner, Five Cranes and Charles Darwin's First Sketch on Evolution, 2021
Werner Büttner, Five Cranes and Charles Darwin’s First Sketch on Evolution, 2021, oil on canvas, 1.5 × 1.2 m. Courtesy: the artist and Triumph Gallery, Beijing

Reflecting the growing appetite in Beijing for contemporary German art, Werner Büttner’s first solo show in China, curated by Thomas Eller, features almost 40 works spanning three decades. References to life and philosophy abound in Büttner’s work – albeit often in a rather illogical manner. In Five Cranes and Charles Darwin’s Sketch on Evolution (2021), for example, rather than depict finches – the original subjects of Darwin’s observations – Büttner substitutes cranes in reference to the mechanical device used to lift materials. Also prominent in the German artist’s practice are nods to historical artworks. Thank You France (for Monsieur Monet and Lascaux Cave) (2017), for instance, connects two very different canonical images: one by the revered French impressionist; the other by an anonymous artist.

Yang Maoyuan 

HdM Gallery

18 June – 1 August

Yang Maoyuan, Roll, 2022, stainless steel, 60 x 20 x 34 cm. Courtesy: the artist and HdM Gallery, Beijing
Yang Maoyuan, Roll, 2022, stainless steel, 60 × 20 ×  34 cm. Courtesy: the artist and HdM Gallery, Beijing

‘Stone Feet’ (2022), Yang Maoyuan’s series of marbled-concrete sculptures, depicts tiny feet weighed down by bulbous forms that impede movement – immediately prompting associations with China’s current travel restrictions caused by the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns. Notions of flight are again brought to mind in the painting series ‘Timeless Era’ (2022), which depicts a row of colourful balloons anchored by various droplet-shaped smiley faces. In 1987, the artist began to make regular trips to Xinjiang, the most important of which took place in 1992 and ’93, during which time he made documentaries. His experiences on these trips still inform his works, including the stainless-steel sculpture Roll (2022), in which a camel’s toes appear connected to a rolled hose. Yang continues to experiment with materials and techniques in a new series of sculptures made of titanium-plated stainless steel. Infinite Growth (2022) is a vertical row of differently sized bowls in iridescent rainbow colours that change depending on the angle at which you view them.

Main image: Yang Maoyuan, Timeless Era No.2, 2022, oil on canvas, 1.4 × 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and HdM Gallery, Beijing

Nooshfar Afnan is an art writer and critic based in Beijing, China.