Rolling out fresh ideas
By Ed Nash (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-08 11:39

Dashanzi 798 Art District today may be best known for porcelain Mao figures, coolly scribbled biro diagrams and the other clutter of conceptualism.

But the district's strength is in the range of work on show and there are still some outposts for traditional painting.

Gallery Perif is a classic cottage gallery, and barely has enough room for the four rapid abstracts that make up Dutch artist Karel Stoop's show.

The four paintings three sketches and a larger oil piece are, action-packed, largely monochromatic but brightened with flecks of intense colour.

According to Stoop, they depict the universe and life, but there's something more than metaphysics at work here.

After 20 years of abstract painting, the real world is beginning to creep back into Stoop's work. The main piece in the Perif exhibition has a barely definable red dragon emblazoned across the middle - perhaps a reference to his first time in China.

These forms are working their way in through his photography and interest in computer art, but they're not taking over the meaning of Stoop's painting yet.

"Painting is like a different language," says Stoop, "It's not definite like photography."

He may have gone to immense lengths to hang on to his individuality dividing his time between Amsterdam and Barcelona in a bid to escape the suffocating atmosphere of European Art History but is the 54-year-old outpaced by some of the younger players at Dashanzi?

A piece of work by Caofei.

While Perif preserves the legend of Dashanzi's past small galleries and studios packed into alleys cheek to cheek with working factories Galleria Continua is its future.

The Italian contemporary art space, one of the area's biggest and best publicized galleries, scored a hit with its last exhibition, a selection of fin de siecle millennial art from Italy.

And the current show continues in a similar vein, taking a quick peek at some of China's hottest young stars.

While the Italians tended toward elegance and understatement, "A Continuous Dialogue" offers a full-on sensual assault.

The room reeks from the largest piece a field of apples about to be crushed by a steamroller. How many flies it will have attracted by the middle of November is anyone's guess.

On a smaller scale the same artist, Gu Dexin, has also contributed a row of puerile yet amusing animations which give a worryingly advanced child's view of the pain of relationships.

The theme of the exhibition is China in the globalized world and as ever the video artists once again lead the pack.

Cao Fei's "Hip Hop" offers a refreshingly bright take on globalization, with street hawkers and middle-aged pedestrians in Chinatown, New York and Guangzhou stomping their feet and waving their arms in joyful imitation of Beyonce or Eminem videos.

His stars might be old, but they're down with kids today.

Karel Stoop
Date: September 29
Location: Gallery Perif, Dashanzi 798 Art District

A Continuous Dialogue
Date: November 12
Location: Galleria Continua, Dashanzi 798 Art District