Contemporary Chinese art and The West: dialogues in the art of Cai Guo-Qiang, Xu Bing, Ai Weiwei and Zhang Xiaogang

Zheng, Jijie (2023). Contemporary Chinese art and The West: dialogues in the art of Cai Guo-Qiang, Xu Bing, Ai Weiwei and Zhang Xiaogang. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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The thesis examines case studies of artists including Cai Guo-qiang, Xu Bing, Ai Weiwei and Zhang Xiaogang in the period from 1978 to 1999. The thesis will trace how four prominent Chinese contemporary artists have been shaped as much by sustained engagements with Western art as by artistic training and education at home. The dissertation explores dialogues between Chinese and Western art through an analysis of art education, networks, and individual artists, and that the time period of the dissertation ranges from c. 1900.
The thesis unequivocally provides an argument that contemporary Chinese art was shaped through a dialogue with Western art, done notably both from within and outside of China. This dialogue between Chinese contemporary artists and the West was, in part, a product of Chinese political reality at this particular moment which refers to the period of the end of the Cultural Revolution, China’s reform and opening up to the west (1978-1999). The methodology used to explore the complexity of such relationships is postcolonial theory. References to ‘hybridization’ and ‘cultural hybridity’ help nuance the synthesis of ‘East’ and ‘West’ in these works.
The aim of this thesis is to question extant literature in the field of Contemporary Chinese Art which postulates for a binary between Chinese diasporic artist’s engagement with the West and those practising on the Chinese mainland. The thesis successfully proves this point by engaging with postcolonial theories of hybridity as well as the complex dynamics of art education in China during the Reform and Opening up period, where competing visions of western and soviet style education were taught to art students. Indeed, the thesis artists who left China for overseas were still the products of its education system.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR


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