Last night, I attended a well-attended panel discussion at the Art Department (INFLUX) at the University of Minnesota.  On the panel were two artists from China, Li Shuan and Liu Xuguang.  Their show, the past re-configured, is at the Nash Gallery.

The works based on certain Chinese characters retain the idea of past Chinese art, but with new methods and materials.  Their thought process seemed very holistic to me.  I also couldn’t help wonder, in a McLuhan sort of way, the advantage these artists have, embodied in the Chinese pictographic writing system, the more directness of the imagery in the signs used, such as Li Shuan’s use of the Chinese character for person ( rén) in a visually repeated way to represent a sense of humanity; the  character itself resembling the outstretched arms of a human being.  I wish I knew Chinese; I would like to better understand the role this writing system plays in one’s thinking process–especially the visual thinking process–and the significance and type of impact it has.  McLuhan has a lot to say about the impact of typography on social structure and social roles, but I will keep this article short.

Liu Xuguang talked about his life’s influences in his art, especially of the Yellow River, and compared this great river to the Mississippi River on which the University campus rests.  This was Liu’s first visit to Minnesota.  Liu is professor of fine art at the Beijing Film Academy and his current work involves New Media, however the brief time I had talked with him after the panel discuss did not allow any in-depth discussion.

Also attending the panel was Wang Chunchen, curator for CAFA Art Museum (Central Academy of Fine Arts).  One theme discussed at length during the panel session was the rapid change that China, and Beijing itself, is going through, and the impact this has on artists, and on the people of China in general.