Monday, 1 October 2012

Chonggang Du: Uncertain Location: Ausin Tung Gallery, Prahran Exhibition Dates: Wednesday 12/09/12 - Saturday 20/10/12 Opening: Wednesday 19th September 6-8pm Artists: Chonggang Du In this new body of work a crumpled sheet of newspaper is a metaphor for the contorted messages sent to us by the media which has pervasive control over the whole of society.

Chonggang Du was born in China in 1963. He received a Bachelor of Fine Art from Shan Dong University and went on to teach at Jinan Craft Arts School and Shan Dong Arts Academy for 18 years before moving to Australia in 2003. In 2009, Du completed a Master of Fine Art at Monash University. As an academic artist, Du expresses both theoretical and artistic concerns through his work, actively engaging with issues of culture, power and politics.
The current body of work looks specifically at the power of the media and how it exerts a pervasive control not only over individuals, but also over government. We just need to look at the knee-jerk reactions politicians have to the latest negative polling result, for a complete turn around on policies, if indeed there were any there at all. Just who holds the real power in society is not always obvious anymore.
A sheet of newspaper is crumpled and twisted, symbolizing the contorted messages sent to us by the media. In some works, the paper seems to take on the form of a bird, hovering uncertainly in an ominous sky full or storm clouds. Is it about to fly off to freedom, or plummet to earth like a bomb?
The artist has made many of these paper bird bombs from both local and Chinese newspapers. The newspaper might contain stories of great inspiration, bravery and courage, yet it is presented to us as crushed and worthless, unreadable and unworthy. But still the artist has found an appealing abstraction in the various forms of balled paper. Some have been loosely painted with broad brush strokes, while others show more detail and tonal technique.
The sculptures in the exhibition also use newspaper as a medium. In The red cage no. 1, the public – represented by the naked dolls – is contained within a phallus shaped cage, carefully reshaped by the artist from an existing metal birdcage and stuffed with more crumpled newspaper. The commentary here could also be about gender issues, and the historic oppression of women through both physical and psychological means.
In The red cage no. 2, the painted red birdcage is again a symbol of a totalitarian regime, and the control it has over the minds of the people through the distribution of selective knowledge.
They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and so the printed word can be more powerful than an army, however, if this knowledge is not used for good, then the result can be devastating. Brainwashing is an assault made upon the general population on a daily basis by media in all forms. We are bombarded by advertising at every turn: print, online, advertising, magazines, books and smart phones. The topics may not always be about politics, but they are invariably about money, and about how those in power can get more of it by manipulating us to buy this, wear that, eat this, not look like that. Our cultural diversity and even our individuality are being stripped from us, as we are encouraged to conform to the media’s idea of normal. And in the process, mankind is losing touch with the natural world, plundering resources rather than working with nature to protect the environment. Somehow, this very important message must get through before it is too late.
- exhibition catalogue text by Gina Lee
 Artists: Chonggang Du

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