Liu Qing 柳青‘s solo exhibition “Restaurant. Into Art or Into Life?” is an event, which ran for the month of September 2013 at Castello 925 art space, curated by Zhang Wei, the curator of the Biennale’s collateral event “Mind Beating”. Liu Qing is a Chinese contemporary sculptor who is probably best known in the West for her work “Train stop” (车站), portraying two school kids kissing on a bench, which appeared in Bihu Ecological Park in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, in May 2013 and caused quite a stir with the local population, making headlines on national media and news in international papers.
Perhaps a good marketing move for her upcoming solo exhibition in Venice, it was nevertheless another one of her trademark public sculptures, which often presents city people waiting for trains at the platform or inside train carriages. The artist works in a realist style and depicts urban city life with no frills. Viewing her work is almost like living among them, they are like 3D snapshots of everyday life in the city.
“Restaurant” (餐厅) is a departure from her previous work, as it explores issues of art and life and how they are perceived, side by side, intermixing with each other. The theme of her exhibition is food and the environment of the restaurant, as an eating place as well as a gallery – a restaurant for art. The artist juxtaposes the two with the intention of demonstrating how life and art go hand in hand and are appreciated in much the same way. She also makes, through this process, are more accessible and understandable with a very simple metaphor about production, presentation and consumption.
Zhang Yan, who wrote the critical essay for Liu Qing’s show, says about the exhibition:
“Restaurant” indicates her thoughts about the relationship between art and life. By creating a special environment, she achieved a kind of conversion and metaphor between life and art, as well as production and consumption.”
Upon entering a restaurant, the first room is usually the dining room, the “stage for consumption”, where guests sit to enjoy their food. Likewise, the first room upon entering the gallery, is just that, with the artworks hanging on the wall, for the public to appreciate and view them – an intellectual and aesthetic consumption.
Going deeper inside the space, one encounters the kitchen, where food is prepared, here at the gallery indicating the origin and production of art. In this environment, real vegetables and artworks are mixed together in the exhibition space. A video shows the meticulous preparation of traditional Chinese recipes as well as some invented fantastical foods. The artist here is hinting at the invisible boundary between life and art, at their inevitable, ever present connection.
The Chinese chopsticks, a basic tool of everyday Chinese life, placed in the gallery seem to point to the wisdom of ancient culture and the survival of art. The exhibition is designed so that there is a gradual spacial movement from art to life, from a more abstract distant connection between art and life, to a closer more immediate one.
The exhibition critic calls the work,
“an integrative work which has achieved the replacement and integration of art and life. ‘Restaurant’ shows the artist’s experience of life and the reflections on the art itself. What is exhibited here is not only art in contemporary life, but also life in contemporary art.”
More about the artis
Liu Qing (b. 1982, XIangtan) lives and works in Beijing. In 2001 she graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) Middle School, she graduated with a BA in Sculpture from CAFA in 2006 and in 2009 she received an MFA in Sculpture, also from CAFA. She is known for her public sculpture of urban life. She has won many awards during her artistic career, including the award at the Fourth Annual Young Artists Exhibition for her public sculpture work Line no. 13 (13号线) in 2011. Her work is in the collection of the National Art Museum of China (Namoc 中国美术馆), Beijing Wall Art Museum (北京墙美术馆), Suzhou Art Gallery (苏州美术馆), 厦门市政府) among others, and is a permanent public art installation in cities including Xiamen, Changbaishan and Tianjin. She is considered one of the most promising young realist sculptors in China.
All Photographs: “Restaurant. Into Art or Into Life?”, Liu Qing solo exhibition, Venice 2013. Location: Castello 925 Centre for Contemporary Art Research, Giardini, Venice. Photos: Prof Danilo Ardia.