Exhibition: Review: Maleonn at Canvas International Art Gallery|Amsterdam

On 04/02/2014 by Site Default

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”[i]

Maleonn – Jiu Shan He – Old Mountains and Rivers

As you walk into the gallery, delicate shadows greet you from afar. The centerpiece of Maleonn’s, who’s real name is Ma Liang, first solo exhibition in the Netherlands, casts an intertwined web of shadows projected from the branched tree hanging from the ceiling. A lone bulb lights the space. At the end of the branches hang delicate black butterflies. A common reference in China, where the butterfly often represents the afterlife. Death and what comes after, are a recurring theme in Maleonn’s work.

A skeleton holds a fishing rod, trying to catch a small fishing boat. On the background cold and empty landscapes give meaning to a famous Tang dynasty poem[ii]. The piece, from the series of Second Hand Tang Poems, is accompanied by the poem in characters, alphabetized on the side. Maleonn explains that many of his younger compatriots no longer are able to read these old poems, and need western language help to understand them.

In a separate work, a desolate warrior, pierced by a dozen arrows stands by the riverside. The work refers to a famous story from the 3 kingdom dynasty, when general Cao used straw dummies on boats to collect 10,000 arrows for the battle the next day. CaoChuanJieJian illustrates the importance Maleonn attaches to his own history. “especially artist need to know and understand their own traditions and history, as they are the one’s that need to comment, react, continue and/or try to alter it. Without history, there can be no future”

The dreamy landscapes created in the back hall of the gallery are countered by the ancient looking scrolls hanging near the entrance. Ancient looking, for upon inspection they are copies of famous Chinese scrolls painted on contemporary maps of Chinese cities, overlaid with female skeletons, notes, stamps, drawings, photos and other personal pieces of history Maleonn, collected over the past ten years. “After every revolution in China, culture has been whipped out, started anew. We no longer know our own history. By collection all these personal pieces of history, I hope to create a collective history”.

The works of Maleonn are not necessarily easily accessible. There are so many references to Chinese culture and history, only scholars would understand. Maleonn’s definitely worried, about his history, his future. The works have a darker side, a melancholic side, but the works also  have an intrinsic gentleness, beauty.

Maleonn is on view until March 1st, and next week at Art Rotterdam

[i] Zhuangzi, Butterfly as Companion: Meditations on the First Three Chapters of the Chuang-Tzu

[ii] Li Zhongyuan: A thousand mountains, no sign of birds in flight;|Ten thousand paths, no trace of human tracks.| In a lone boat, an old man, in rain hat and straw raincoat,| Fishing alone, in the cold river snowand translation

– See more at: http://www.sinarts.nl/review-maleonn-canvas/#sthash.YMX5c2xS.dpuf


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