Shi Jindian — Sculptures and Paintings
Director: A Thousand Plateaus Art Space
Opening: March 27th 2010, 3pm
Exhibition Time: March 27th May. 5th, 2010
Exhibition Venue: A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, 87 Fangqin Jie, Chengdu
About Shi Jindian and Beijing Jeep BJ-212
Shi Jindian was born in 1953 in China’s Sichuan Province. He graduated from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Chongqing in 1974, and currently lives and works in Chengdu. One of his earliest works involved wrapping an antique Chinese door in wire and then burning it so that only the wire survived. The inclusion and destruction of this example of traditional Chinese culture was designed to provoke insights into the nature of contemporary Chinese culture.
One of his largest and most complex works is 3/4 Beijing Jeep. This work is over four-meters long, two-meters wide, and one-point-three meters high and comprises more than 2000 component parts of a fully functioning motor vehicle. In order to make this work, the artist bought a Beijing Jeep and dismantled it. The entire chassis, engine, transmission, exhaust, cooling system, suspension, brakes, steering system, and wheels were broken down in their component parts, wrapped in wire, and reassembled as a shadow of its former self. The work is complex and fascinating. It is like a full-sized solid version of the exploded-assembly technical instructional drawings that are used extensively in automotive maintenance manuals. For boys (and girls) who like toys it is a compelling work.
The selection of this object has particular cultural significance. Production of the Beijing Jeep (more correctly known as the Chinese National Defense Science and Technology Commission BJ 212 Light Off-Road Jeep) began in 1965 and it quickly became an important symbol of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Mao Zedong used the Beijing Jeep to review the Red Guards that massed in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere. The image of Mao standing in the jeep and waving to the assembled hordes became a defining image of the Cultural Revolution. Images of Mao Zedong have been a source of inspiration for China’s contemporary artists since the end of the Cultural Revolution. Shi’s work is much more subtle. It evokes the image of Mao but as a memory of this key era in China’s recent history given solid form.
The process of making these works is hugely time-consuming. The wire is wound in one continuous line across the surface of the object, stopping every centimeter or less in order to be wound into a whorl before changing direction to delineate the surface of the object in a series of closely linked triangles. It is a form of meditation that may be related to the work of the literati artists of the past in that it reflects the spiritual experience of the artist as a self-contemplation outside and beyond the artwork. But in practice the artist needs assistants. The making of the 3/4 Beijing Jeep would have taken one person working eight hours a day more than three years to complete.
Chairman Mao Zedong in a BJ-212 jeep reviewing Red Guards in Tiananmen Square on 10 November, 1966.