Scotland’s contemporary art encourages China’s ‘city of the future’ to focus on the present
Published on 18 May 2021
The fourth phase of an international project by the University of Dundee’s Cooper Gallery will launch in Shenzhen, China this month, making timely connections between two UNESCO Cities of Design
CURRENT: Contemporary Art from Scotland is a first-of-its-kind exhibition programme showcasing distinctive Scottish contemporary art in China.
Following three successful phases of collaboration with leading art organisations in China since 2015, CURRENT moves into phase four at OCAT Shenzhen, launching Saturday 22 May.
Phase One, exhibited in Shanghai in 2015, was the first major showcase of contemporary art from Scotland in China, highlighting its grass-roots spirit and its keen debates with the social and political dimensions of art and culture. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the exhibitions and praised the project as “exemplary in fostering new connections and future opportunities for innovative cultural exchange between Scotland and China.”
Phase Four features two exhibitions, one by Turner Prize-nominated artist Lucy Skaer and Rosalind Nashashibi (collaborating as Nashashibi/Skaer) and another by the winner of 2015 Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Corin Sworn.
Sophia Hao, Cooper Gallery Principal Curator, said, “Since its inauguration in 2015, the project has grown into a sustained and meaningful dialogue in contemporary art between two countries.
“CURRENT has offered important opportunities to boost knowledge and awareness of Scottish culture in a key international arena while enabling future exchange and collaboration between China and Scotland.
“In this final fourth phase following previous iterations in Beijing, Shanghai and Wuhan, CURRENT arrives in a ‘city of the future’, Shenzhen. Resisting the appeal of that future, CURRENT seizes the inherent discursivity of ‘the contemporary’, composing a concrete reality disciplined by the circumstances and radical insights that constitute this untimely moment.”
Professor Anita Taylor, Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, added, “We are exceptionally proud that CURRENT Phase Four is to be presented at OCAT Shenzhen. CURRENT is a phenomenally rich and engaging international curatorial project that demonstrates the reach, engagement and impact of Cooper Gallery.”
CURRENT was organised in partnership with the British Council and was funded by Creative Scotland, British Council and the Scottish Government.
Amanda Catto, Head of Visual Arts at Creative Scotland, said, “CURRENT provides a significant platform for the very best contemporary art from Scotland to be presented in China and will foster new opportunities for creative and cultural exchange.”
Encompassing two exhibitions from Corin Sworn and Nashashibi/Skaer, Phase Four of CURRENT dissects the fictions and truths absorbed and transmitted by ‘the contemporary’.
Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer are artists with international solo careers, but they also collaborate as Nashashibi/Skaer. The pair met in Glasgow and began working together in 2005. Their exhibition Chimera traverses mythology, nature, language and interpretation to elucidate the protean metamorphosis underpinning ‘the contemporary’.
Corin Sworn is an artist who lives and works in Glasgow. Her solo exhibition Variations of Assembly encompasses architecture, sound, video, dance and poetry to explicate the undercurrents of monitoring, movement, sincerity and drive that score ‘the contemporary’.
Simon Groom, Director of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, who contributed to one of the Hubs and Fictions Touring Forums as part of CURRENT programme, said:
"Cooper Gallery DJCAD’s exhibition programme is never conceived of as something static, but as a dynamic and often provocative crossroad of conflicting currents, that lead to many unexpected areas of thought, which is reflected in the range of associated events and networking that happens around the gallery’s projects, and which are integral to them.
"The symposium, residencies by artists and writers, as well as the programme of exhibitions over four presentations are testament to this dynamic, restless and unsettled evolution. It also encourages inclusion, and opportunities for other voices as well as stakeholders to participate, allowing the project to gain momentum, and become larger than the sum of its parts, a model that has proved supremely appropriate in its resilience and adaption to these testing times.
"The project has helped raise the profile of contemporary art from Scotland, and Cooper Gallery DJCAD in a very interesting, culturally relevant and distinctive way, and opened the possibilities for real dialogue, meaningful engagement and further cultural exchange."
Martin McDermott, Head of the Scottish Government Office in China, said:
"The CURRENT programme extends the highly regarded international reputation of Cooper Gallery—the public facing art school gallery—at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, as a key arts and education institution supporting, promoting and presenting the best of Scotland’s cultural talent on a global stage."
Artists Lucy Skaer and Rosalind Nashashibi (Nashashibi/Skaer) said:
"The Current project has taken many twists and turns over the years and we have always been interested in the influence of place on our work. Possibilities of travel fell away, but we were able to work closely with some very inspiring Chinese artists, and an animator in Scotland.
"Our new film 'Bear' is very much a production of the pandemic year, shot during the first lockdown and then animated in part with hand drawn images frame by frame at home directly on to the film surface, and in part with digital animation made in collaboration with Regina Ohak. It’s a film about change and transformation, enriched by the soundtrack composed and sung for us by opera singer Zhuo Peili. By incorporating the Chinese words and traditional style in the song we hope the film will resonate with the audience as well as being a wider reflection on language and the naming of animals. A present day 'Bestiary' of sorts. We have also had the privilege to work with the Print maker Xu Zhiwei on a new poster to accompany the film, printed using traditional Chinese woodcut."
Artist Corin Sworn said:
"Of late while not travelling, I have become aware of the studio as a strange semi virtual architecture, where things are made to appear elsewhere. My work at OCAT is presently being assembled, built through sent plans, collected writings and conversations over email running between Cooper Gallery and OCAT. We are all in different cities and that together we can make something solid appear miles from where it was first tremblingly imagined, amazes me."
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