The Confucius Institute at Durban University of Technology
Hosting “Bird/Fish”--- an Installation of Photographs, Prints and Drawings
In the last two decades the visual arts in China have come to reflect the dramatic shift in this country’s accelerated economic-liberalization and its global prominence. The rapid development of new, often a-cultural, visual expressions is drawn both from historical Chinese creative conventions and more particularly the absorption of western and other models of art making. The encounter of Chinese artists with Africa and South Africa is rare, and has to date received little attention.
Under this background of cross-cultural vacancy, to showcase and highlight an artistic integration of the contemporary Chinese visual arts influenced by traditional Chinese culture, with the dynamic and indigenous South African art and culture, hosted by the HANBAN/CI Headquarters, Chinese Consulate General in Durban, and the Confucius Institute at Durban University of Technology, and co-hosted by eThekwini Municipality, Tatham Art Gallery at Pietermaritaburg, Durban Art Gallery, Durban University of Technology, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University and University of Kwazulu Natal, the “Bird/Fish” Art Exhibition--- an Installation of Photographs, Prints and Drawings by South African Chinese artist Ms Kristin NG Yang is successfully respectively opened at Pietermaritaburg, the capital city of KwaZulu Natal Province, and at Durban, the busiest seaport in African Continent, on May 20th and May 24th, 2016. More than 400 invited guests from the two cities, including representatives from governments, consulate corps, art and culture fields, and universities gathered and witnessed a artistic feast of contemporary Chinese and South African visual art.
This exhibition includes recent Kristine’s water-colour monoprints, drawings, photographs, and the installation piece Bird/Fish, the latter sourced in a Chinese musical composition in which a bird becomes captivated by a fish. The theme is deployed metaphorically - the suspended fish/birds painted on plexiglass, allude to that which is elusive; to disparate realms and difference. But the work also reflects on flawed perceptions of racial and cultural homogeneity, and on tainted histories of former encounters and power relations, then and now.
The installation is also intended to be contemplative – centering on sameness and difference, diffusion and conflict, the realms of the physical and metaphysical. It also alludes to ambiguity, to the ways in which one is perceived and confronted - how one embraces challenges or resists them - in the process learning from each other.
The installation, with music and live performance, references African, Chinese and western cultural idioms in a fusion that is intended to highlight both the familiar and unfamiliar. In part the work is autobiographical in that it reflects the artist’s predicament - as a diasporic Chinese artist/mother/father, Chinese/African, as she shift s between roles demanded of her both in the private and public sphere. Her identity, ostensibly homogeneous, is increasingly heterogeneous and in flux, to the extent that she, like both fish and bird (both culturally significant in China), am faced with various uncertainties and choices.
Dr Lolie Makhubu from the Faculty of Arts and Design remarks: “ Well done for the execution of the function! The exhibition came at an opportune time whereby we celebrate Africa Day today. The performance and exhibition display how South Africa relates and collaborates with other parts of the world, i.e outside the continent of Africa. The African (isiZulu, isiXhosa) performances, Chinese dance and the choreography display how the isiZulu and Chinese cultures relate to each other. Congratulations to the artists and the CI at DUT!”
By highlight the traditional Chinese cultural elegance and contemporary South African robust wild art, this fascinating visual art feast showcases the perfect combination of Chinese culture and South African art, created by the distinguished South African Chinese artist Ms Kristine NG Yang. This fabulous exhibition, also as one of the important programmes of the Confucius Institute at Durban University of Technology, will be on show for 20 days at Durban Art Gallery and then be presenting at the South African well-known annual Grahamstown Art Festival from the end of June to the beginning of July, when more audiences will be attracted to this interactive mixture of Chinese and South African visual art.