Contemporary Chinese art has exploded in global popularity in the last 25 years, and the Gao brothers have been involved in this evolution since the beginning. The Hua Gallery specialises in showcasing Chinese artists and its latest exhibition explores a country and people in transition.
China is developing fast and this change has often left its inhabitants wondering about their place in the world and how to adjust to a new way of life. These fears are reflected in the works of other Chinese artists like Ye Hongxing and it’s also present here. People stand isolated within a giant shell of an unfinished building, their nudity reflecting their vulnerability. They look lost and unsure of what they should do next.
This isolation isn’t remedied by living close to others. A set of people crammed into a wardrobe recognises China’s population issues, yet the people in this photograph are separated from their neighbours by partitions, leaving them with no opportunity to connect, despite physical proximity.
A more chaotic collage looks at the flux of a country torn between cultural roots and technological advancements — Buddhist monks feature in the same photograph as fighter jets and astronauts, recognising that China included some of the world’s earliest civilisations yet is also a modern superpower.
The one largely positive work pictures a mushroom cloud made from a tree. The tree is populated with religious iconography and couples embracing. It’s an attempt to convert something destructive into a message for peace and tolerance.
Through this exhibition, the Gao brothers offer insight into their country’s development and the challenges that many Chinese people face. Their work may not be as eye-catching as some other contemporary Chinese artists but the socio-political angle of these photographs makes them both easy and interesting to engage with.
Between Spiritual and Material Spaces: The Photographic World of the Gao Brothers is on at Hua Gallery, Albion Riverside, 8 Hester Road, SW11 4AX until 18 September. Admission is free.