Colloquium, Zhen Wang, MA Candidate, Transcendence and Return: Re-interpreting and Re-envisioning Urbanization in Contemporary Chinese Art

This paper discusses, from the perspective based on Chinese traditional aesthetics and philosophy, how the artistic representation of urban landscape, materials, and performed bodies reflect on the contemporary context in China since the late 1990s. The artists discussed will include Zhang Dali, Chen Qiulin, Yang Yongliang, Xing Danwen, and Chen Qingqing. On the one hand, the meditation, reflection, and representation of urban transformation by these artists indicate not urban conflict but their cultural values, historical significance, and spatial fluidity. Such specific time-space relation can be seen as the transcendence of universality and locality in the Chinese fast urban expansion and the entrance into the global market. On the other hand, the indigenous focus on the global issues of urbanization entails the possibility to return to tradition-based theoretical structures, such as one proposed by Yi Pai, and makes us rethink the writing on Chinese art history, which reestablishes the cultural identity in the temporal context. 

Zhen Wang is a MA candidate in East Asian Studies.