Vincent Ward shows in Shanghai

Vincent Ward
Meridian Lines

Vincent Ward
Shanghai Biennale
Until March 31, 2013

Meridian Lines: Contemporary Art from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
China Art Museum, Shanghai
Until December 31

Award-winning film-maker and artist Vincent Ward recently returned from the opening of his major exhibition in China, where he was the first New Zealander invited to show at the prestigious Shanghai Biennale.

He was one of three artists to be offered a solo pavilion with his exhibition Auckland Station: Destinies Lost & Found, which is showing as part of the biennale in an historic church on the Bund in central Shanghai.

In a city of 13.5 million people, and with several hundred artists exhibiting, it is rare to get noticed by the arts media. But Ward was mentioned by a leading art critic Baozhen Zhang, writing in Shanghai's City News.

“Vincent Ward’s Evoking harmony between Man and Nature through Art ... one can experience and explore the transient meaning of life and nature  shifting through states of  flying, falling, colliding; joy, awe and fear," he said.

As well as the featuring in the biennale, which is running for three months, Ward has other projects in China.

A book on his film work translated into Mandarin is about to be released through a Chinese publisher. Making the Transformational Moment in Film written by Dan Fleming has already had a successful US release earlier in the year.

Next month he returns to China for a New Zealand feature film festival in Beijing, where his film Rain of the Children will be shown at Ullens, considered to be one of the more cutting-edge galleries in the city. 

New Zealand is also represented in Shanghai with a major group exhibition called Meridian Lines, which shows contemporary art from Te Papa. It features works by Kiwi artists Bill Hammond, Ralph Hotere, Ani O’Neill, Michael Parekowhai, John Pule, Yuk King Tan and Gordon Walters.

Show curator Sarah Farrar says the title refers to the imaginary line that transects the Earth’s surface, the voyages of James Cook and the Pacific navigators, as well as the idea in traditional Chinese medicine of the line which plots the invisible path by which energy flows through the body.

“The selection of works in Meridian Lines is deliberately eclectic, reflecting the many different approaches to art making that have appeared in New Zealand over the past 40 years, as well as the diverse cultural influences and backgrounds its artists represent.

“The works on display range from W D Hammond’s vertigo-inducing landscapes, inhabited by shape-shifting animals, to the equally perplexing imaginative world depicted in John Pule’s paintings.

"Repeated abstract patterns feature in works by Gordon Walters and Ralph Hotere, who draw inspiration from sources as varied as indigenous Maori design, optical art, and New Zealand architecture,”she says.

“Michael Parekowhai and Ani O’Neill bring together another host of references in their works: teaching aids, reggae music, street culture and American minimalist art.

"Eleven red masks by Yuk King Tan, a New Zealand artist of Chinese heritage, keep watch over the entire gallery. Like characters in a play – animals, cartoon characters and a cast of the artist’s own face – they are patiently waiting to be brought to life.”

The New Zealand show is alongside major exhibitions from other countries, including the Whitney Museum’s exhibition of modern American masters like Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol.

Other contributors include the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, which has loaned Vermeer masterpieces, the Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris and the British Museum.

More than 200 artists are featured at the Biennale in around 40 exhibition spaces, including the newly built China Arts Pavilion, which has 65,000sq m of exhibition space. Visitors to the Biennale are predicted to be in excess 800,000.

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