Van Gogh Was Here

From China, With Love

凡高在此. 来自中国的爱

Cai Yuan

Sheng Qi

Xi Jianjun

10 July - 15 August 2019


Press Release

Van Gogh is here is an exhibition of three established UK-based artists who grew up in the People's Republic of China during the Mao era. Cai Yuan and JJ Xi are known for their witty interventional performance works produced in London in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the duo Mad For Real. Sheng Qi and JJ Xi produced collective works in the mid to late 1980s in the emergent China-Avant-garde movement with the project Concept 21 in a series of seminal happenings at Beijing University and the Great Wall.


This exhibition opens up a sense of Van Gogh's worldwide reach and his continuous legacy in contemporary art from a perspective of trans-global migration in the twenty-first century. The works shown here are new or recent works by artists whose practices span early avant-garde movements in China to global contemporary conceptual practices. 


Artists in China in the 1980s were exposed to the free brushwork of Van Gogh and other European modernists through catalogues and reproductions in books, after studying realism serving the Mao regime and the portrayal of communist party history in positive terms. Their realisation of the immediacy of his artistic touch as a spiritual 'truth' was transgressive in its distance from the prescriptive realism of the Mao era taught in the academy. 


In addition to works by the exhibition, the award-winning documentary film China’s Van Goghs will be screened at intervals during the show, a story of Dafen Village painters, where copies of Van Goghs in southern China are hand-produced and sold cheaply on the mass market to order.


Curated by Katie Hill

 © San Mei Gallery 2020
39a Loughborough Road, London, SW9 7TB