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Zhang Xiaogang / Ren Rong

East-West Dialogue, works on paper / installation

Osthaus Museum Hagen, Hagen

(c) Beba Ilic

In this exhibition with two Chinese artists of almost the same age, Zhang Xiaogang and Ren Rong, we present two important contemporary positions in Chinese and international art. Works by both artists will also be shown in a context of expressionist paintings from the collection of the Osthaus Museum, so that a dialogue between East and West will arise.

Born in Kunming, Yunnan in 1958, Zhang Xiaogang achieved international fame for his family portraits, which have a clear echo of the years leading up to the Cultural Revolution in his homeland. These are mainly monochrome, stylized portraits of families in green military uniforms that reveal connections between the past and the present. It is the unobtrusively told stories that we perceive. Memories, including those that caused pain, are brought into a line of continuity, placed in a current context. Zhang has developed a private symbolism in his themed paintings over the years such as: Green Wall, Bloodline, Big Family, Amnesia and Memory. For example, green with red is considered a revolutionary color, interior rooms were always painted green in the 1960s and 1970s in the lower third. The collective and the private merge in public as well as in family space. In the interior pictures we often see power cables, lamp cables, light spots, red lines, pointing and writing hands that can be interpreted in context. They can stand for a world of hope or for retreat and loneliness. Zhang Xiaogang's pictures are usually thoughtful units. Stylistically, he prefers painting in the style of the old masters, which produces a specific poetry through reduction. The Amnesia and Memory series is an eloquent example.

Ren Rong, born in Nanjing in 1960, received a major exhibition in the Osthaus Museum in 2016. He is internationally known for his series of "plant people", which continues to this day, which are developed both in the pictorial (painting, frottage, silhouette, graphic) and sculptural (steel or iron sculpture) genre. We learned from him in an interview with Justinus Maria Callen in 2006: “For me, my plant people do not allude to any mythology. On the other hand, they reflect all the more completely different, i.e. personal things, such as hope, wishes, ambition, lust, fear, positive energy and a lot more ... I am also interested in the relationship between nature and people and questions of ecology . Thus, for me, the plant man also stands for the ideal connection between man and nature. As an artist, I don't just want to be in the studio, I also want to communicate with people in order to exchange ideas with them across the most varied of borders. Because only the exchange triggers something new. "

Ren Rong's central work in our exhibition will be a location-based installation from 2020 entitled “Wholeness”. It is extensive work with shovels. As a rule, shovels are tools for picking up and carrying away everyday things, in the garden or elsewhere. In this work, the artist dispenses with the styles and only presents the shovel blades produced in China with different shapes. Sometimes the leaf shapes are pointed-edged, sometimes a bit more rounded, in a figurative sense one can also speak of male and female shapes. Each shovel blade has an artistic dimension, all parts are connected with each other, according to the artist's world of thought that people, animals, plants are a unit in the universe.

Ren Rong's works are created in the process of great empathy towards the world. His art is in the midst of life; it presents itself to us in a harmonic lightness.

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