Dialogue With Emperor Qin’s Warriors @ Summerhall, Edinburgh 3rd-30th June 2017
This exhibition commissioned by the Brussels-based Inspiring Culture, as part of the EU-CHINA 2012 Year of Intercultural Dialogue, features 28 EU artists (one from each member state) plus three Chinese, each offering their own unique interpretations of the famous First Emperor’s Terracotta Army.
The variety is huge, ranging from the abstract to the surreal, the nature-based to the flamboyant, using a wide array of materials including metal, wood, glass, plastic, paper and leather. Some are simple, others elaborate and others just plain baffling (one is basically a huge, silver weeble toy that balances vertically despite its egg-like shape).
One of the finest is Sound From Heaven by Kun Zhang, an artist from China. While made from glass-reinforced plastic, it looks distinctively clay like. With its brown-red hue, simple Goddess statue nature and Buddhist influences it possesses a restful yet primal air of the celebration of birth.
Moving onto the European contributions, one of the flashiest is Xian Warrior by José de Guimarães from Portugal. Possessing an explosively colourful, Hong Kong street sign flair, it grabs the attention with LED and neon light flooding out from within its boxlike structure. It’s a very festival-like and celebratory piece, in its own way a symbol of victory felt from emerging from a long and gruelling battle.
Heads by Sweden’s Lars Widenfalk consists of several cast crystal glass horse heads. Representative perhaps of the ghosts of the horses these ancient warriors might have ridden into battle, it possesses an eerie, pure beauty and symmetry that’s redolent of inherent pristine flawlessness of revered legends.
Another standout is Peace for the World by Aigars Bikse, a mixed media wood sculpture with a smiling figure letting go of a balloon. There’s an undeniable, unbridled joy in the figure’s smiling face, as well as strident sense of victory in their pose as they have won the greatest battle of them all - that eternal striving for world peace. The balloon of celebration is no longer gripped by the figure but appears to be cast asunder, symbolic of a load being released from the mind of the subject.
Since the figures represent a huge range of artistic viewpoints, some will make more subjective impression than others. The exhibition, which has been presented at art museums around Eurasia, is well worth catching for its free entry and its limited time slot here at Edinburgh’s Summerhall venue. More information can be found here: http://www.confuciusinstitute.ac.uk/warriors/.