THE EARTH IS FLAT
Slovenian and Chinese contemporary art
UGM | Maribor Art Gallery, Strossmayerjeva 6, Maribor, Slovenija 
3 June–14 Avgust 2016
opening: Friday, 3 June 2016 at 20:00
exhibition inaugurated by: Tone Peršak, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and dr. Andrej Fištravec, Major of Maribor 
artists: Uršula Berlot, Feng Fang, Samuel Grajfoner, Marjan Gumilar, Zmago Lenárdič, Shang Yang, Tan Ping, Zhang Fangbai 
curators: Breda Kolar Sluga and Peng Feng

The exhibition will present the works by eight of the finest renowned artists from China and Slovenia. Despite some distinct differences in form and content, all selected works reflect the achievements of modernism and simultaneously responds to the specificities of a contemporary world in transition, considering great social, political, economic, and environmental changes. The artists address tradition, world views, ethics, philosophy, the unconscious, intuition, creation, and spiritual freedom and offer an opportunity to explore the East/West position with stereotypes aside − in a different, contemporary manner.

Surface and Depth
Globalisation has been erasing the cultural diversity. Thomas L. Friedman said: “[T]he world is flat.” However, huge historical and cultural differences beneath the flat world can be detected. In the fast-developing process of globalization, these historical and cultural differences have been fading into a distant landscape. The cultures in our globalization times seem to be the same on the surface but different in the depth. This reminds us of Carl Gustav Jung’s collective unconscious theory, but in its reversed version. According to Jung, the consciousness on the surface varies, but the collective unconscious in the depth is the same. In our globalization era, the similar collective unconscious seems to float on the surface from the depth, while a different consciousness sinks down to the depth from the surface. It also completely differs from the beauty which Johann Joachim Winckelmann saw in Greek sculptures. The beauty of Greek sculptures is like an ocean; no matter how roaring the waves are at the surface, the deep inside has always stayed quiet. As part of the globalization culture, contemporary art in China shows no significant difference from the rest of the world. However, this is only a superficial phenomenon. If we would go deeper, we would see huge differences underneath similar surfaces. Contemporary Art in China could not stand outside all relationships with the long history of Chinese culture. The deep and dense significance of culture and society is compressed under the flat surface. The world of Chinese contemporary art is also flat. But what lies beneath the flat surface is a distant and endless memory. Feng Fang, Shang Yang, Tan Ping, Zhang Fangbai are Chinese artists active in the global contemporary art world. However, international audiences can obviously feel the atmosphere of Chinese culture emitting from their works, even if their cultural depth still seems to be hidden from them.
Peng Feng

Time and View
„Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism /.../ Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussion, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened /.../ [P]atience is everything.” Today, we believe that one hundred years ago, when Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these encouraging words in support of the artist, the passing of time was different. And yet, he described the path of knowledge as many would do at the present. Contemporary art always speaks about the world growing and us struggling to keep up with its dimensions and experiences. Losing the solid ground beneath our feet is another name for modernity. And the stair we can firmly step on, but only for a short time, is a synonym for contemporary art. 

Uršula Berlot, Samuel Grajfoner, Marjan Gumilar, and Zmago Lenárdič prove that it is still possible to create a modern “painting” with a convincing message. However, their paintings reflect the instability and fragility of the world as well as that of the painting’s traditional ground. These artists are all true worshippers of the painting, which, however, does not stop them from examining the contemporary concept of visuality.

The Western, and therefore also Slovenian, existential and visual experience is closely tied to the perception of materiality.The perception of reality is generally justified through one’s own body. An awareness of the substantial and the physical is always present in their works, even though concentrated in minimalist language, it demands simultaneous sensorial and mental reading from the observer.

Such a description of Western culture features gives, despite its formulaic character, the best understanding of the reasons why today we want to link our spatial experience with one coming from the other side of the world, where similar questions araise, despite an altogether different tradition of visuality.

By employing various language elements, the artists have already won the right of knowledge. What remains open, is the question of our strength. It seems at the present, when the observer in the museum devotes an average of 10 seconds to an individual artwork, that Rilke has been dedicating his words primarily to us.

Therefore, it is still relevant: If we want answers, let us overcome anxiety, let us take our time! And surprise awaits us; it always finds us where we at least expect it.
Breda Kolar Sluga

Organisation:
UGM | Maribor Art Gallery and BFA | Beijing Film Academy 
Supported by: The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Slovenia 
Exhibiton space partner: Today Art Museum Beijing

You are kindly invited to the lecture Paths to the Real: Processes of Contemporary Art in China that will be held by Peng Feng, curator of the exhibition and  Ph.D. professor of aesthetics and art criticism at School of Arts, Peking University. The lecture will be at 18:00 in UGM| Maribor Art Gallery, Strossmayerjeva 6.

YOU ARE KINDLY INVITED!

Umetniki:
Uršula Berlot CV and portfolio 
Feng Fang CV, article 
Samuel Grajfoner CV 
Marjan Gumilar CV 
Zmago Lenárdič CV 
Shang Yang CV, Artists statement
Tan Ping CV 
Zhang Fangbai CV 

High resolution photographs

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