SINOPTICON {PLYMOUTH}

A multi-sited exhibition  held in Plymouth from 28 April to 7 July 2012

SINOPTICON culminated in a multi-sited exhibition across the city of Plymouth in late spring/early summer 2012. Four of the city’s major cultural venues joined forces to present the work of a number of contemporary artists, all of whom draw inspiration from the wealth of chinoiserie in its many forms.

The exhibition featured the work of:

Suki Chan (UK)  {}  Gayle Chong Kwan (UK)  {}  Stephanie Douet (UK)  {}  Christian Jankowski (Germany)  {}  Isaac Julien (UK)  {}  Tsang KinWah (HK/China)  {}  WESSIELING (UK)  {}  Grayson Perry (UK)  {}  Ed Pien (Canada)  {}  Meekyoung Shin (Korea)  {}  Karen Tam (Canada)  {}  Erika Tan (UK)  {}  Laura White (UK)

Taking chinoiserie as a starting point this exhibition explores our relationship with China both historically and through contemporary eyes.

‘Chinoiserie’, a French term meaning ‘Chinese-esque’, derived from the Seventeenth Century as an entirely European style that was influenced wholly from China and the East. The China that was being emulated was in fact fictitious and very few real images of life in China had reached the west. Instead a Utopian land was described and repeated through the use of decorative motifs and styles. The influence and desire for China, it’s trade and culture, ramified in to the 19th century, opium wars, trade and colonialism.

The creation of chinoiserie in the West could be seen as a way of reigning in and controlling foreign influences. ‘Sinopticon’ is a construct of ‘Sino’ meaning China and ‘optic’s, meaning ways of seeing. For some of the artists involved in Sinopticon the lure of chinoiserie and the push-pull of its connotations, are manifest in their work. Emile de Brujin, the National Trust expert on chinoiserie describes the earliest interest in China in the c.16th as themed by ‘an attraction and revulsion of the East’; so too, in the c.21st, chinoiserie’s aesthetic allure, seduces us and its historical stereotypes and reverberations of trade and exploitation, repels us.

Through form and decorative narrative in chinoiserie we can discuss value and taste, fantasy, replication and stereotyping of images. So too, the darker elements of chinoiserie’s historical routes; identity politics, racism, trade and production values, authorship and the contested territory of exoticism. This exhibition looks to unpick these themes in a contemporary context to shed light on how pervasive Chinese culture, industry and aesthetics are in our everyday lives.

See Events for SINOPTICON {Plymouth}

Eliza Gluckman in front of work by Tsang Kinwah SINOPTICON 2012 photo credit Dom Moore

Eliza Gluckman in front of work by Tsang Kinwah SINOPTICON 2012 photo credit Dom Moore

Tsang KinWah, 'You are extremely terrified but you are definitely not a racist', 2012 (PAC) photo credit Dom Moore

Tsang KinWah, ‘You are extremely terrified but you are definitely not a racist’, 2012 (PAC) photo credit Dom Moore

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, installation, North Gallery works by Meekyoung Shin and Isaac Julien, photo credit Dom Moore

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, installation, North Gallery works by Meekyoung Shin and Isaac Julien, photo credit Dom Moore

Meekyoung Shin, Ghost, PMAG, photo credit Dom Moore

Meekyoung Shin, Ghost, PMAG, photo credit Dom Moore

Karen Tam, intervention at Slatram House, photo credit Dom Moore

Karen Tam, intervention at Slatram House, photo credit Dom Moore

Karen Tam, Terra dos Chines Curio Shop, PAC, photo credit Dom Moore

Karen Tam, Terra dos Chines Curio Shop, PAC, photo credit Dom Moore

Grayson Perry, High Priestess Cape, Saltram House, photo credit Dom Moore

Grayson Perry, High Priestess Cape, Saltram House, photo credit Dom Moore

Chinoiserie Sonic Art Performance, Neil Rose and Mark Vernon and Shaun Lewin, PCA, Sinopticon event, photo Dom Moore

Chinoiserie Sonic Art Performance, Neil Rose and Mark Vernon and Shaun Lewin, PCA, Sinopticon event, photo Dom Moore

Ed Pien, Bloom, hand cut paper, Saltram House, photo: Dom Moore

Ed Pien, Bloom, hand cut paper, Saltram House, photo: Dom Moore

Erika Tan, Sensing Obscurity, PCA, photo: Dom Moore

Erika Tan, Sensing Obscurity, PCA, photo: Dom Moore

 

WESSIELING, Fashion Chess, at Saltram House, photo credit Dom Moore

WESSIELING, Fashion Chess, at Saltram House, photo credit Dom Moore