Xu Bing

Unrolled landscape painting of trees on a long scroll by Xu Bing

Being one of the most prominent Chinese artists on the global stage, Xu Bing is known for his attempts to deconstruct traditional art forms for new creations to explore the issues of common meaning. Extending the dimensions of contemporary Chinese art but centering on the values which human beings share, his works built up a new self-contained artistic system which is also friendly to everyone. These works break down geographical barriers, get over economic discrepancies, and neglect cultural differences, inviting people with various backgrounds to the same platform for reflection.

Forest Project is a social program which creates a self-sustaining system that moves funds from developed places to Kenya for replanting the forests. Xu teaches children in Kenya to draw trees and then sells their drawings on the internet. Therefore, painted trees on paper by the Kenyan children will be transformed into real trees planted on the fields of Kenya. This, like every project of his, is an outcome of creative transformations on materials and ideas. It is an experiment that involves art, education, and capital to knit an automatic network linking industrial human society with the natural environment. Taking advantage of the free internet, Xu connects different spheres together and lets the resources flow between areas. He has been developing an artistic narrative to express his awareness of the most fundamental understanding on the notion of common property, which has been undermined for a long time by the splits of history, geography, economy, and culture. This social consciousness, together with the profound visual texture of the works, forms Xu’s unusual but inclusive art aesthetics.

—Jialu Guo