Blood, Body and Lace
What kind of story is concealed between and beneath shiny tears of blood, some prickly tongues with thorns, beneath decay and green moss covering items left behind, between clay, refined tissue of lace, porcelain sex organs, and gold?
In the exhibition Blood, Body and Lace, Chinese artist Liu Xi presents three separate works of art, all of them consisting of individual components, all of which in their turn and special way express a point of view, or an opinion for themselves in a constant dialogue, in a room of many voices. They speak of humiliation, decay, bitterness, and of an environment of abandoned domestic objects that someone, at one point, covered up, before leaving the premises. They also talk about self-preservation, of our own worth, of our will, and of the intimate, precious beauty we embody.
This is in short the artist’s own story.
Blood, Body and Lace
Liu Xi is a feminist, but she openly talks about her upbringing in a Maoist-system, a revolutionary regime that dismissed feminism as a redundant concept, since equality was supposedly guaranteed as an integral part of communism. She is often interpreted as being both an anti-traditionalist as well as a political voice. Her art is, nevertheless, anchored in her unique capacity to express the individually felt and personally experienced.
In her work #WangXinhong she interprets and deconstructs the tragedy of a fictitious woman called WangXinhong, who in reality could have been anyone from past generations. She has tried to change, or improve herself under the weight of the male gaze, but failed. Sickness has destroyed her. Her uterus is damaged. She has turned bitter and speechless, with spikes sticking through her tongue, as she cries tears of blood. WangXinhong is a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, and represents generations of women raised in utter subordination. Under the philosophy of Confucius. Under Mao. Under Men.
We have all read and heard about unwanted girls. Unwanted and superfluous. Liu herself is familiar with this particular feeling of not being wanted, and openly talks about her own conflictual upbringing where she was almost breast fed the feeling of inferiority from frustrated relationships between women through generations.
There is an element of Brechtian distancing technique in this work. The artist approaches the woman WangXinhong through deconstruction and reflection. We might also trace an unresolved separation between them, and an element of grief in the work #WangXinhong, contemplating the destiny of all these women. At the same time, a dignified respect and understanding for this woman – or for all the women she represents, is established through the sheer brilliance, and elegance of glass.
Liu Xi herself broke with the social patterns of her past, studied art and found a path to self worth.
21 green, or yellowish green and moss-covered objects constitute the work called 2021. The artist herself writes that these ceramic abstracts of ordinary household jars, vessels and bowls represent the feelings and frustrations we all have bottled up, so to speak, throughout the hardships of the pandemic. They remain a part of us. The apparent decay forms organic growth on the surfaces. All the same time, green is the color of hope. The hope that over time we learn to live with our experiences.
The objects all appear to be covered, or wrapped in cloth. As if to conceal something, or to protect them. Abandoned this way, the fabric gradually integrates with the objects in a new sculptural identity, with a new content pointing both backwards in time and forwards. As a story no-one recognizes as their own anymore. Under cover.
The 21 porcelain works in the series called Our God is Great might evoke poetic associations with corals, shells, orchids or lilies in delicate porcelain. But they are also shaped as female genitals, all glazed in gold. They are all individual, all opened, curved, living. Handmade, delicate, expensive lace has been imprinted by the artist onto, and into the clay itself, before the firing, as if it were onto, and into her very own layers of skin.
A long and strenuous process has finally provided the new generation of women that Liu Xi represents a capacity to manifest their self-worth. Not only has she reconquered the field of vision that the male gaze has occupied, and the language he has used to describe her. She is now free to abandon the domains where she previously was allocated. And her own prosperity adorns her.
Liu Xi was born in 1986, in the Shandong-province in northern China. After graduating from the sculpture department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, she later moved to Shanghai and established her own studio there.
Over the last years Liu Xi has participated in exhibitions in Ecuador, Hongkong, India, Indonesia, Portugal, Spain, South-Korea and Taiwan, besides having a number og solo exhibitions in her home country, China. She has won a long series of awards and recognitions, and her art has been bought by numerous institutions in different countries.
In 2017 she participated in a group exhibition at the S.E. Gallery in Bergen. Blood, Body and lace will be her first solo exhibition in Norway, and the first solo exhibition with a Chinese woman in Norway ever!
Curated by Bjørn Inge Follevaag
The exhibition is supported by the NGO Fritt Ord.
S12 editor: Written in August 2021.