Culture Article

Melina Rauter
/ Categories: News, Culture, Art

Overseas Chinese artists Hosts thematic contemporary art exhibition " Maize Maze "

Bringing Together artist Ran Zhou solo exhibition "RIGID" blooming in London

On 27th September 2023, the contemporary art group exhibition Maize Maze: Immortality Experiment, together with Ran Zhou’s solo exhibition RIGID unveiled in London.

The exhibition constructs a coherent narrative line with a hybrid curatorial approach, combining physical exhibitions with online components, providing consistent surprises to audiences both in the UK and China, also completing a labyrinth journey of spiritual and visual satisfaction. The joint efforts of curatorial teams and artists successfully co-presented the new aesthetic of art reshaped by digital technologies last week, being awarded high-standard feedback from local audiences in the West context.

The exhibition attracted many local artist communities on the opening day

Maize Maze: Immortality Experiment, curated by Zinnia Wang, is a thematic and collaborative exhibition that offers a glimpse of our daily life in the post-digital era. The concept of the exhibition is inspired by a phenomenon: maize maze which appears and disappears naturally. This idea was further addressed as a lens through which to spectacle the transformation which inhabited in variety contemporary art forms are intergrowth with digital technologies.


Chenxi Xu’s work: Passages without Ground(left), Offering at the Threshold(middle), Untitled(right)

In this collaborative exhibition, Chenxi Xu presents a relationship between a couple of oil paintings and a digital image. This relationship not only asks the question of what the relationship is between actual and virtual, but also the play upon imagination and memory within the production of an image. The main difference is perhaps a difference born out of temporalities which unfold with the process of inscription, and in passing through a screen the digital image is close to schematic process of rendering. This is an important difference to painting which finds in part a passage through or an engagement with the body. Painting is in turn, subject to a series of de-lays and potential reversals, rather than corrections, additions and extractions which is at the root of a modulation of outcome. In practical terms painting might extend itself over several days, whereas a virtual drawing has the immediacy born out of invariably a single session. The implication of this is related to the affective perception of surface. Put in other terms, the complexity of the paintings is both related to surface and a corresponding depth. If the surface doesn’t cohere, then the relationship to the depth reading of the image is likewise affected. Critically the relationship between the energetics of the painting and its ability to sustain an imaginative engagement with the image is either enhanced or surrendered within this process. Therefore, the play of actual and virtual is not only demarked by the difference between actual and digital image making but is embedded within any process in the production of an artwork. Both processes are but different circulations of the two registers, even though the temporalities and textualities of each might be radically different.

Local artists looking at Chenxi Xu’ work

These three works are certainly derivative of a relationship to landscape but one that passes through various stages of abstraction, an abstraction of what lies outside of landscape or an elsewhere of it. What appears to arrive firstly is the production of space, so despite the modest scale there seems to be unlimited spatial extent. Therefore, the sensation might be closer to that of floating in space rather than being anchored by space, which might be another characteristic of virtuality. The drama of a distinct figure and ground relation gives way to modulations within tonal passages. Imaginatively this could be of the order of pre or post human temporality but not one that attaches itself to any mode of rhetoric that relates either to sci-fi presentation or quasi-religious feeling. Instead, it is akin to the memory of Chinese Classical Landscape painting without being a form of mannerism. Again, there is not only the sense of spatial otherness but also vast temporal expanse that takes the references drawn upon outside of a strictly late modernist framework.

Chenxi Xu’s work <Untitled>

The artist has cited a pre-occupation with layering, folding, and looping within her creative process and the way these processes upon out a relationship to space, rhythm, pulse, and intensity. In turn this mediates a push and pull between empty and full. The question then arises to the working of imagination with such pre-occupations. A tree might just be limited to its depiction but might also be its relation to a breeze passing through it or its conversations with other trees. With this arises what is actual and what is virtual and how the mind might form of a projection of such a distinction. This does not imply that the task of a painter might pass over to philosophy but rather indicates an embrace of a poetics which preceded philosophy. In this way there is a gesture related to a returning to a space of undoing and with this the occupation of forms that could be described as non-knowledge. We are thus left alone with a process of being with these works.

The work of Chenxi Xu spans the registers of both fine and applied arts without privileging one over the other but is rather the free play between them. Her practice moves across from painting, graphics, jewellery, photography, and performance that assemble in turn preoccupations with colour, mood, seriality and inscription processes. Over the last five years she has exhibited within a diverse range of setting, demonstrating within these refer-ences to both Contemporary structures of perception as well as Classical Chinese aes-thetics. In her work there has been a fascination with figures such as floating, rhythm, folds, and movement within imaginative vistas. There is within this the feeling that touch, and vision are being brought into conversation.

Sia Li's work: Abstract Images of the Flesh: Manifestation of Consciousness's Beauty II (left), Abstract Images of the Flesh: Manifestation of Consciousness's Beauty I (right)

The recognition and promotion of Sia Li's art by Tate Britain's art collectors underscore the universal appeal and relevance of her work. It reaffirms the idea that art has the power to transcend cultural boundaries and touch the hearts and minds of people from diverse backgrounds. The painting works of Sia Li establish a bridge between the abstract world of Merleau-Ponty's philosophy and the tangible realm of visual expression. In each stroke of her brush and every choice of color palette, she captures the essence of Merleau-Ponty's thought that our bodies are not mere vessels but rather instruments of perception, understanding, and experience. By immersing herself in this philosophy, Sia Li elevates her art to a higher plane, inviting viewers to explore the profound relationship between their own bodies and the external world. Sia Li's ability to weave together philosophy, art, and universal themes resonates with a broad audience, making her a rising star in the contemporary art scene.

Fashion & textile

Yan Feng's work(far left)Art Therapy, Bio Game, The East Wind/Fashion, The East Wind/Textile (far right )

Yan Feng(left) discussed with the audience while introducing the works.

As a fashion & textile designer with over 10 years of professional experience, who also is doing PhD at research group in University of Plymouth, Yan Feng has received a warm reception by many audiences, including industry professionals. Her work has featured in New York Fashion Week, was commended by the teaching and research team at the University of the Arts London, and was praised by local artists' organisations, who have invited her to exhibit in galleries across the UK. Her work was selected for the Jiangsu Province 2023 Art & Design Biennale in China, with her designs being praised by specialists in the field, including experts from Tsinghua University in China, the China Artists Association, and the Design Alliance in Taiwan, where her work was selected from amongst 15899 entries in a recent international design competition.

Yan Feng bridges the gap between Chinese and Western in the field of culture and art, and her fusion of technology and environmental sustainability are widely praised. Her works are not only of a highly aesthetic and cultural value, they contribute to an emerging Chinese and Western aesthetic dialogue, promoting the export of Chinese art to the outside world. Yan Feng’s talents have made her a rising star of the younger generation of art and design and we look forward to watching her in the years to come.


Yuchen Wang ‘s work: Visible Forces

Visible Forces from jewellery artist Yuchen Wang introduces a novel approach to personalised jewellery, blending algorithmic modeling of topological optimisation with traditional craftsmanship to craft unique pieces that resonate with the wearer's individuality. The project consists of two parts - functional jewellery and everyday wearable jewellery. Yuchen's consistent theme is the exploration of our position within the world and our responses to contextual influences. Her projects delve into the complex interplay between individuals and their surrounding environments, examining how we interact and react to the spaces and situations we find ourselves in. Her work serves as a medium for contemplation, inviting viewers and wearers to examine their own position within the world around them. Yuchen is set to participate in several upcoming exhibitions scheduled worldwide in the coming months. Meanwhile, she is working as a jewellery designer and architect.

Xinye Xus work: Repair Charm

Xinye's works focus on daily life, and through the mastery of sterling silver, copper and other metal materials, she carries out artistic practice in the fields of painting, Jewellery and utensils. In her work, the cup is something that people get along with every day. Use exaggerated restoration to express its specialness and importance. Cups are very common items in our lives. They carry so many beautiful things. Such as memory fragments in life. It can represent life, with the cup as the main body. The traces of repair are all over the outer wall of the cup. Then the artist can use the patches to make the handle of the cup to achieve a decorative effect. Instead of making the cup look cracked because that would be impractical, she made a small part of the coffee cup tray look cracked and then repaired it. The memories they carry are timeless, but they themselves are not. Happy scenes can be taken as photos, and relatives who miss you far away can write letters. Time spent with you, childhood memories, every bit of life, whether it is important or commemorative items are worth cherishing. And those objects that are turned out and looked at from time to time due to longing are also prone to aging. Artists want to repair objects in life, but they also want to protect the time spent with them.

New Media

Zhilu Cheng’s new media work: Unreal Plants

Zhilu Cheng’s new media work is based on digital technology and explores the possibilities between real and imaginary, actual truth and illusion in the field of jewellery. As an assistant professor of jewelry design at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, she deconstructs and recombines the fundamental elements of jewellery design such as gems, settings, and chains, and integrating the shapes of plants and flowers from nature, a brand-new "digital form" is created. These "Unreal Plants" continuously generate, sprout, and grow in the virtual space, ultimately presenting a virtual landscape of a jewellery botanical garden, offering viewers a captivating virtual visual feast. The introduction of new technology is not only an experimental exploration of digital art and traditional craftsmanship but also a novel interactive experience between the audience and the art.

Ran Zhou’s work: Doll+: Body Transmigration in Its Ideal Fantasy

Ran Zhou’s work Doll+: Body Transmigration in Its Ideal Fantasy is a 3D animation experimental short film. In a posthuman world, a Chinese factory meticulously crafts the ideal figure from vibrant orange-yellow plastic. Devoid of gender and untethered to biological constraints, this entity exists within a virtual realm where notions of sickness, death, and beauty are rendered utterly absurd. Through the surreal spectacle of plastic dolls gyrating in the heavens to the rhythms of electronic music, the film ponders on capitalism, virtual existence, and the very essence of the human body aesthetics.


Yunshan Jiang‘s work: Daedalus-the bread series, Metal Sculpture

In a captivating debut, RCA artist Yunshan Jiang has unveiled her latest masterpiece, Daedalus, a comprehensive collection featuring sculptures and installation art. The artist's work delves deep into the intricacies of this symbiotic bond, drawing inspiration from an iconic historic flour mill in France. Yunshan Jiang skillfully juxtaposes highly mechanized production lines with preserved traditional mills, creating a visual narrative that merges two eras, eloquently showcasing technological advancement and its transformative impact.

Yunshan Jiang‘s work: Daedalus-the bread series, Installation

Central to Yunshan Jiang's work is an exploration of the disparities between mechanical precision and human thought processes. While machines inherently possess precision and efficiency, flawlessly executing predefined tasks, human beings are characterized by their emotional complexity and the influence of multifaceted factors on their judgments. Notably, Daedalus has garnered significant acclaim from art collectors and critics alike.     Yunshan Jiang's work presents an exceptional fusion of industrial aesthetics and philosophical reflection. Through her exquisite utilization of mechanical materials, she seamlessly emulates the intricate process of breadmaking, inviting the audience into a profound dialogue between technology and tradition.

Interactive installation

A local audience wants to take a photo with her puppy in front of ppuzzledd(Zidian Pan)'s work: Absence

A little girl was attracted by captured image and couldn't help dancing in front of ppuzzledd(Zidian Pan)'s work

Ppuzzledd(Zidian Pan)'s computational art work Absence, is encouraged and developed by MFA Computational Arts programme at Goldsmiths, University of London, offers an imagination to the day when we evolve out of our physical existence. It allows the audience to reflect on their own perception of the body by perceiving it digitally, i.e., to jump out of the concept of the "physical body" to reflect on what defines our silhouettes, and how we recognize our silhouettes on and off the screen under the influence of technology. It's fascinating to see that if we were to engage a puppy or a cat in this work, it might not recognize themselves by body contours, whereas we as human beings would be thinking about it deeply and repeatedly.

Ppuzzledd's work offers a permeable imagination of the virtual and real world, in which one evolves as our immaterial existence, and another is strongly linked with our physical world. When we establish an instant reflection between the two worlds, it triggers a thinking about situation, in which the conventions we take for granted in the real world might be revisited in the digital world.

Experimental video

Rosie Ming(Mengmeng)’s work: Symbiosis

Rather than creating virtual people in the video, Rosie Ming(Mengmeng)'s work retains the combination of people's performance and digital background to express her concern about the symbiosis of plants and humans in the post-human era. The coexistence of human and non-human in the video work Symbiosis, which reconstructed a new identity and relationship from a feminist imagination about breaking down the boundaries between humans and non-humans. She took a utopian perspective on the future of human and plant habitats and uses new technologies to critique the irreversible impact humans have had on the earth's land during the Anthropocene era. Symbiosis has been widely screened at Central Saint Martins. As one of China's youngest artists working in a variety of mediums, Rosie Ming will continue to practice along these lines.

The audience watched the "Symbiosis" video with fascination


Rongjun Zhao (Ruby Zhao) ‘s work: Spontaneous Game

In the works of Rongjun Zhao (Ruby Zhao), audiences are able to feel the sense of separation from the real society and connect the spiritual world in an abstract way. Most of her works are a combination of composite materials and prints, exploring the meaning of print in contemporary context in different forms. The artist explores the connection between humans and the world through the depiction of “traces”. Through the subconscious and self-perception to explore the possibilities between humans and matter. This present work is also a deep reflection of nature and objects with mirror acrylic as the carrier.

RIGID: Ran Zhou solo exhibition, is her inaugural UK solo exhibition, showcased an array of captivating artistry after she graduated from the Royal College of Art. The exhibition featured Zhou's latest series, including striking metal sculptures and thought-provoking photographs. This solo exhibition is an experimental work with metal and performance. Complementing these visual elements were a series of carefully curated and guest performances.

Artist Ran Zhou(left) talking with local audiences

Live performance “In Conversation with Pixiu Schreber,” directed by Ran Zhou, performed by Sanna Kelly

Live Performance "Course of Discern" by guest artist Sen Kwok

Live Performance "The Breaths I Owe You" by guest artist Mujtaba Asif

Zhou herself directed a mesmerizing performance piece, while invited artists Sen Kwok and Mujtaba Asif presented their compelling works, 'Course of Discern' and 'The Breaths I Owe You.' These performances engaged viewers in a multi-faceted dialogue, exploring themes of aging, disease, death, and the societal impact on the human body.

Zinnia Wang, curator and PhD candidate from Transtechnology Research, University of Plymouth

The masterful coordination and curation of the exhibition were helmed by curator Zinnia Wang and assistant curator Rc Teresa and visual design team, including Yunshan Jiang, Aurelia Li, Tianyue Pan, Annan Shao, Jianan Tu, Sapphire Sang and others, and technical team GC Metaverse.

The exhibition brings together a group of Chinese oversea artists from the Royal Academy of Arts, Goldsmiths, University of London and University of the Arts London, Plymouth PhD research teams who perfectly applied the artistic creation techniques they acquired in the UK into their observations of current life.

With the support of academic research on curating, they jointly completed a wonderful art exhibition in a novel, philosophical and thought-provoking way, which amazed each audience who came to the exhibition site and imperceptibly diffused Chinese aesthetics inhabited in art works to global audiences.



Melina RauterKailun Sui

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