Secret Signs. Calligraphy in Chinese Contemporary Art
– 8 February 2015
The “Secret Signs” exhibition which runs until 8 February in the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg looks at the role of calligraphy in contemporary Chinese culture. Thirty-eight artists are showing 110 works some of which were created specifically for this exhibition. The works include various different media including calligraphy, photography, video, installations and objects. Included are works by artists such as Gu Wenda, Xu Bing, Qiu Zhijie, Zhang Huan and Wu Shanzhuan.
The exhibition is a joint cooperation between the Deichtorhallen with the Sammlung Sigg and M+ in Hong Kong in the exhibition series China Time Hamburg 2014. The series offers visitors a varied programme with events on art and culture, politics, law and economics, and education and health with the aim of raising awareness of China itself and its relationship with Hamburg in particular.
In China, calligraphy is on a par with the country’s culture. The script, which has remained unaltered for centuries, demonstrates artistic perfection and poetry. Mao Zedong’s writing reform in 1956 represented a large incision in the otherwise constant tradition. For the first time the medium was popularised and calligraphy was no longer dominated by scholars. The simplified symbols were used, amongst other things, for propaganda purposes. Since the 1980s, this contemporary Chinese art has been concerned with themes such as the deconstruction of lettering (anti-calligraphy), the commercialisation and trivialisation of writing as a medium of mass culture and the question of individual expression in view of the long, rich historial practice of learning calligraphy.
The exhibition on “calligraphy in Chinese contemporary art” is particularly pertinent against the background of re-evaluation of the traditional Chinese art of the 20th and 21st centuries. This development can be explained in part by globalisation and is on the point of breaking away from its traditional roots. Above all, against this background, the exhibition examines the significance of calligraphy in modern contemporary art in China from 1980 to the present day.