The China Pavilion

55 New Bird Street
15th September - 26th November 2006 (Wed – Sun 12pm-6pm)

Reviewed by Helen Grey

After driving around the Waterfront Business Area for what seemed like hours, searching for anything vaguely Chinese looking, I finally discovered The China Pavilion. Now you may be forgiven for thinking that The China Pavilion is…well, a kind of pavilion that in some way is connected to China. Whereas in reality it’s actually a warehouse unit with a sign outside saying – yep you’ve guessed it – ‘The China Pavilion’. But don’t let this put you off, as they say the things that are hardest to find are often worth the time spent looking for them. Actually I may have just made that up but it made me feel better.

The warehouse is home to a group show of prominent Chinese artists who were commissioned to produce new works for the Liverpool Biennial. Weng Peijun’s installation greets you as you walk through the door. ‘Triumphal Arch’ is a scale replica of the Three Gorges Dam in China, made entirely from hollow eggshells. Hanging above the dam are large canvasses that have the history of the building of the dam – and the problems that have been associated with it – printed on them. Decorating the walls on the other side of the dam are large paintings depicting flooded towns and countryside. At the far end of the installation a video of two people dressed in panda suits plays on a continuous loop. Collectively – I think – these works are an expression of the fine line that exists between nature and the effects of man’s manipulation of the physical environment. Peijun seems genuinely concerned about the effects that the dam may be having on the environment, and his voice is at its clearest when he spells out “Man can conquer nature” in hollow eggs. This is a visually exciting and thought-provoking piece, but I do wonder what he did with all the insides of the eggs.

Peng Yu and Sun Yuan’s installation ‘Tomorrow’ is also housed within the warehouse – and not in the Salthouse Dock as advertised. The artists have created four extremely life-like figures. All are Caucasian men, aged between seventy and eighty, and dressed in smart suits. The figures are so well made that they are a little creepy; I kept expecting them to move or ask why I was looking at them so closely. The faces are particularly impressive because the artists have captured the ageing process impeccably, right down to the deep wrinkles and slightly protruding veins. The juxtaposition of the withered bodies and the new suits offer an eerie warning to the youth of today – that no one can escape the effects of time. I was a little confused as why Chinese artists would choose to depict white men in their installation, but perhaps this is to show how differently we treat our elderly.

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