• Art for every woman

Art for every woman (2)

Hair-raising exhibition

The "Bald Girls" exhibition unveiled at the Iberia Center for Contemporary Art is more than a mere showcase of modern art. Rather, it's a courageous statement of modern Chinese women's thoughts on rights, freedom and sex from three distinctly individual feminist artists. The exhibition features artworks from Lan Jing, Li Xinmo and Xiao Lu, among a total of 16 feminist works.

Feminism is based on the historical and contemporary facts of gender difference, and has gradually developed into an ideology. As a basic belonging of women, the female body became an ultimate spark awakening feminism ideology, thus unavoidably making it a major manifestation of feminist art. Artworks on show at the exhibition include paintings, performance art displays and installations, all embracing the theme of the female body.

One of the artists, Li Xinmo, is among the most controversial feminists in China. Featuring elements of pain, memory and death, her works are mostly based on performance art which examines the relationship between the body, films and paintings. The sense of tragedy and ceremony in her works is a rebellion against mainstream aesthetic values, which is also determined by her dual identity as both an artist and art critic.

Li has long been an advocate for gender equality to encourage the pursuit of a level playing field with men. Her feminist thoughts rebel against rules and conventions, and the pursuit of independence is evident in her artworks.

Another artist, Xiao Lu, also ranks as one of the biggest names in modern Chinese feminist art. She cemented her reputation by firing two bullets into her own work with a pistol at an exhibition in 1989. Her artworks on show at this exhibition challenge the social morals and imagination of the audience through body performances. Her works also reveal her queries on gender relations, children and marriage.

The Western influence
Modern feminist art in China is undeniably influenced by the West. Lan Jing, a Chinese-born artist and feminist who lives in Germany, is one person who has shaped her beliefs around her experience living in the West.

She has held onto the Chinese traditions of oil painting, but also made attempts to combine painting with installation art. According to Lan, her idea of feminism is "enjoying physical well-being, maintaining the balance between career and family, and assimilating the essence of both the East and the West."

Chen Qingqing, who was born in 1953, is considered a late bloomer in art, given her career did not take off until 1994. A former employee at a foreign company, she discovered success in modern art after she moved to Europe in the 1980s. In 1996, an exhibition of her installation artworks opened in Austria, which encouraged her to continue exploring this field.

Even the exhibition's name of "Bald Girls" is a salute to a Western classic. The name comes from The Bald Prima Donna, a famous play by Eugne Ionesco, the French playwright who wrote the Theatre of the Absurd.

According to Xu Juan, art critic and independent curator of the exhibition, "Bald Girls" is a satire to the absurd and awkward current reality in China. "It is a reaction against sexism, an exposure of social gender issues, a statement of the spirit of rebellion and a key to the oblivion of gender inequality in a new age," said Xu.
2012-03-08 09:01 Global Times, Web Editor: Xu Rui