Yin Xiuzhen

14th February – 26th March 2009
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks

In the mid 1980s, Yin Xiuzhen was one of only two women in a class of thir­teen stu­dents at her Bei­jing art school. This imbal­ance is now slow­ly chang­ing how­ev­er it is still typ­i­cal­ly men who go on to forge careers in con­tem­po­rary art, while women (most­ly) leave the pro­fes­sion to pur­sue mar­riage and fam­i­ly. Of the women who are mak­ing impor­tant inroads, per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant is Yin Xiuzhen.

Yin Xiuzhen’s work inves­ti­gates the per­son­al and domes­tic, gen­tly mock­ing the aggres­sion in some male prac­tice, and man­i­fest­ing sen­si­tiv­i­ty that often belies her sub­ject mat­ter. While much con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese art is per­haps best known for rad­i­cal pho­to­graph­ic work (stem­ming from tough per­for­mance prac­tice), Yin’s work is, by con­trast, con­cerned with domes­tic­i­ty, and more broad­ly, the envi­ron­ment. There is noth­ing doc­tri­naire or stri­dent in the work; it remains polit­i­cal­ly potent.

Recent­ly Yin has begun to make paint­ings’ in cloth. She typ­i­cal­ly re-uses old clothes in order to con­struct works that qui­et­ly and humor­ous­ly inves­ti­gate mod­ernist abstract prac­tice, with­in the socio/​political frame of her par­tic­u­lar inter­est; the plight of the indi­vid­ual with­in Chi­nese social organ­i­sa­tion. The works com­ment on the con­for­mi­ty nec­es­sary when liv­ing in an over-crowd­ed social net­work, where social inter­ac­tion is inevitable and (nec­es­sar­i­ly) con­trolled. From a dis­tance, the works appear to be large abstrac­tions; cool expres­sions of a mod­ernist prac­tice. In close prox­im­i­ty they evoke intense human dynam­ics and inter­ac­tion, through the very act of breathing.

Per­haps the most famous works, the Portable City series are cloth con­struc­tions in suit­cas­es that are high­ly per­son­al appre­hen­sions of major metrop­o­lis­es. Here, the artist makes mod­els of places she is inter­est­ed in. These are replete with sky­scrap­ers, bridges, roads, street sounds, music and lights, form­ing whim­si­cal and idio­syn­crat­ic por­traits of place.

For this cur­rent exhi­bi­tion, Yin has made three suit­case works: Portable City: Mel­bourne (2009), Portable City: Jia Yu Guan (2009), and Portable City: Shen­zhen (2008).

The Mel­bourne suit­case is based on Yin’s expe­ri­ence of liv­ing in the city (for three months) and her love of its sophis­ti­cat­ed charms. This suit­case includes the con­cert hall, Saint Paul’s Cathe­dral, the Nation­al Gallery of Vic­to­ria, the Eure­ka Tow­er and Fed­er­a­tion Square, as well as Flinders Street Sta­tion and the city sky­line; a full por­trait of the city centre.

Her por­trait of the Chi­nese Silk Road city, Jia Yu Guan, is intense­ly per­son­al, etched in Yin’s mem­o­ry as an emo­tion­al site of fam­i­ly his­to­ry. It was the place where her father was forced to work dur­ing the 1970s, like many oth­er Chi­nese fathers, sep­a­rat­ed for long peri­ods from his fam­i­ly. Miss­ing her hus­band but unable to read or write, Yin’s moth­er asked the young Yin to write to her father on her behalf.

The Shen­zhen suit­case reflects Yin’s inter­est in broad­er social and envi­ron­men­tal issues. It is a por­trait of a city rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the new indus­tri­alised Chi­na. Shen­zhen, once a small fish­ing vil­lage, is now a huge and grow­ing mega-city, cre­at­ed over the last thir­ty years.

In The Unbear­able Warmth (2008), scarves are used to rep­re­sent mil­lions of only chil­dren in Chi­na. Gov­ern­ment fam­i­ly plan­ning pol­i­cy has cre­at­ed huge social prob­lems; man­i­fest in dai­ly life in Chi­na, where sin­gle chil­dren become the sole focus of intense fam­i­ly inter­est. The suf­fo­ca­tion’ this engen­ders is very ten­der­ly com­ment­ed upon here. A thou­sand scarves are stitched togeth­er to form an enor­mous rip­ple, stretch­ing out to an implied infin­i­ty of problems.

In the series Can­dy, the artist has made beau­ti­ful­ly observed paint­ings of the can­dies dis­card­ed by her daugh­ter; a daugh­ter who is some­times bored and lone­ly as a Chi­nese only child and whose fin­gers play with the chew­ing gum in the video work opposite.

Exhib­it­ed in the Chi­nese pavil­ion at the Venice Bien­nale in 2007, Weapon (2003) is lay­ered with mean­ing, ref­er­enc­ing ancient Chi­nese spears, the domes­tic pro­duc­tion of gar­ments and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers. The piece protests the pow­er of the media in an author­i­tar­i­an soci­ety and the aggran­dis­e­ment of this con­trol. The forms are cov­ered with hand-knit­ted fab­rics, which express (lit­er­al­ly) a kind of home spun’ sub­ver­sion of the vio­lence of the implements.

Yin Xiuzhen is an artist for whom the per­son­al and every­day crit­i­cal­ly informs inves­ti­gat­ed sub­ject mat­ter. Her deeply human­ist per­spec­tive is con­tex­tu­alised with­in an appre­hen­sion of very broad social and polit­i­cal issues that while being par­tic­u­larised with­in the Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary expe­ri­ence, res­onate with us all.

Sime­on Kro­nen­berg, 2009

Images

Yin Xiuzhen

Yin Xiuzhen, 2009
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks
Pho­to: Paul Green

Yin Xiuzhen

Yin Xiuzhen, 2009
instal­la­tion view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Carriageworks
Pho­to: Paul Green

Yin Xiuzhen

Weapon, Every­day objects
Dimen­sions variable

Yin Xiuzhen

Portable City: Jia Yu Guan, 2009
Suit­case, used clothes, mag­ni­fy­ing glass, map, sound
1528828 cm (with the suit­case open)

Yin Xiuzhen

Portable City: Melbourne, 2009
Suit­case, used clothes, mag­ni­fy­ing glass, map, sound
1528828cm (with the suit­case open)

Yin Xiuzhen

Portable City: Shenzhen, 2003
suit­case, used clothes, mag­ni­fy­ing glass, map, sound
1368025cm (with the suit­case open)

Yin Xiuzhen

Lad­der, 2007
Stain­less steel, socks
490355 cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Can­dy #9, 2007
Video
231.580.566.5 cm (in box)

Yin Xiuzhen

Deep Breath #1 (white), 2008
Used clothes, wood frame
24424415.5cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Deep Breath #2 (black), 2008
Used clothes, wood frame
24424415.5 cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Deep Breath #3 (grey), 2008
Used clothes, wood frame
24424415.5 cm

Yin Xiuzhen

The Unbear­able Warmth, 2008
1000 Scarves
365 (diam­e­ter) x 25 (height) cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Can­dy #6, 2007
Oil on can­vas, used clothes
6080 cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Can­dy #7, 2007
Oil on can­vas, used clothes
110110 cm

Yin Xiuzhen

Can­dy #8, 2007
Oil on can­vas, used clothes
120120 cm