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28 Feb – 19 May 2013

Exhibitions: Xu Bing: Landscape Landscript: About


The Ashmolean’s 2013 exhibition programme opens with the Museum’s first major exhibition of contemporary art.

Born in Chongqing, southwest China, in 1955, Xu Bing has become one of China’s best- known and critically acclaimed artists, exhibiting in solo exhibitions around the world. He grew up in an academic family in Beijing and during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) was sent to the countryside for re-education. Afterwards he studied printmaking, becoming successful as both an artist and a teacher. He left China for the United States in 1990, and in 1999 received the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award. His subsequent awards include the Fukuoka Asian Culture prize (2003) and the first Artes Mundi prize (2004). In 2008 he returned to Beijing to become Vice President of China’s foremost art institution, The Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Xu Bing works in a range of media - print, sculpture, installation and performance. His international success has grown in response to his ability to embed complex ideas about art and culture within accessible, playful works which engage the audience. ‘Landscape Landscript’ is the first exhibition devoted to his landscapes.

Central to all Xu Bing’s art is the theme of language: its uses and changes; misunderstandings; and dialogues within and between cultures. As a Chinese artist, Xu Bing has focused particularly on the pictorial quality of the Chinese language which, he maintains, lies at the core of Chinese culture.

The Landscript series uses Chinese characters for landscape features to compose a landscape painting. In this way, characters for ‘stone’ make up an image of rocks; the character for ‘tree’ makes up trees; and ‘grass’ for grass and so on. Xu Bing has produced four new pieces for this exhibition which develop further his technique of using characters as brushwork.

His Landscripts will be displayed alongside his early landscape sketches and prints, with more recent works which depart from traditional landscape styles. He has also selected a number of European landscapes from the Ashmolean’s collections in order to explore how different traditions interact and to throw light on the fundamental elements of Chinese culture.

Also on display at the Ashmolean

Chinese Landscapes from the Ashmolean Collection
FREE, Gallery 11, on display until 21st Jul 2013

Explore the continued tradition of Chinese landscape painting in this complement to the Xu Bing show.

The works in this free display have been selected from the Ashmolean’s collection to complement the Museum’s spring exhibition Xu Bing: Landscape Landscript.

Since 1999, Xu Bing has painted landscapes that exploit the fact that the first Chinese characters looked like pictures. He uses the character for stone to represent stones, the character for tree to represent trees, and so on. In a set of four new works to go on display in Landscape Landscript he has for the first time used this method to make landscapes that copy paintings by earlier artists dating from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.

The display in Gallery 11 includes 17th-century paintings that belong to the same tradition that Xu Bing copies. Others bear inscriptions that state the artist’s debt to painters of earlier generations. The Chinese landscape painting tradition is based on reworking forms and styles established hundreds of years ago: the early paintings displayed here show the tradition at around its mid-point so far, while the later works demonstrate its endurance.

Follow this link for an online version of Chinese Landscapes from the Ashmolean Collection, enabling visitors to browse and search all exhibition objects and their high-quality zoomable images online.