March 24, 2022
BEIJING – Displaying talent provides valuable publicity momentum to those who are too often overlooked in sector, Cheng Yuezhu reports.
This year sees the third edition of curator Zhu Yujie’s group female art exhibition, a project hosted annually with the aim of offering more opportunities to women artists.
The exhibition Metaphor and Gaze opened in Shenzhen’s La Vie Art Center, Guangdong province, on Feb 27.
Zhu says that she has been consciously and continuously learning about gender theory since university, and her master’s studies in culture, criticism and curation at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in the United Kingdom drew her attention to the understated roles of women in art history.
“Women artists still have relatively fewer opportunities to showcase their works at art museums and galleries, and few group exhibitions focus on female topics,” Zhu says.
“Only by constantly exhibiting works by female artists and writing about these artworks, can they be known by more people and be written into art history.”
The exhibition, which runs until March 28, features installations, videos, paintings, performance and textile works by 17 female artists.
According to Zhu, the title Metaphor and Gaze is about artists expressing women’s real desires, conundrums, confusion and anxieties from different levels and perspectives, and exploring the love, healing and growth shared by humans.
“In these unique times (of the pandemic), we have had new life experiences and understandings, and I increasingly realize that art is the best medium to break down barriers and biases, and to bring people together. And for artists, their creation and thinking never stop,” Zhu says.
“In art history, the images of women are often just objects to be gazed at. In our exhibition, women are the subject of creation.”
Zhu says that she feels an increasing amount of people are supporting female art. While she overcame various hurdles hosting previous exhibitions with a limited budget, this year she was invited by Xiao Yu, founder of La Vie Art Center, who provided the venue.
The art center is an industrial space with coarse concrete walls, which, according to Zhu, tackles the stereotype of women being frail, and allows the artists to converse with the viewers through powerful artworks.
Because of the large space, the artists are able to exhibit artworks on a bigger scale and many decided to do the installation themselves, one of them being artist Yuan Xiaotian.
Her installation, Flow, weaves thin metal threads into translucent folded fabric that twists and hangs in midair.
“Many people, seeing this installation for the first time, will think it’s made of cloth or silk, but it’s in fact made of metal. I think it is just like women, who can be gentle, but also very strong on the inside. It is a representation of the saying ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’,” Yuan says.
“Apart from three specially invited artists, we highlighted mostly artists born in the 1980s or 1990s. Most of them have learned art internationally, have a broad outlook, and excel at mixed-media art creations,” says Xiao.
The exhibition also features a reading room section entitled Writing Her Power－Women’s Situation and Writing, displaying books from 20 publishing houses on themes including female power, self-identity and relationships.
Zhu says that setting up a reading room has been a recurring feature at her previous exhibitions, because books have played a major role in her learning of gender theory.
Artist Wen Qiwen has been invited to create works of paper art entitled Go With the Flow for the reading room, with paper-made jellyfish hanging in the space. Wen believes the relationship between jellyfish and water is a metaphor for the one between humans and society.