Gordon Cheung : Here Be Dragons
30 April – 17 July 2016
Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Private View & Launch: Friday 29 April 2016
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery will shortly be unveiling a major exhibition of the works of Gordon Cheung. Shown in the city for the first time, and supported by Edel Assanti gallery, London, this major solo exhibition features new large-scale collages (paintings) with Cheung’s trademark use of clippings from the Financial Times, and animations and digital works made especially for or in response to Nottingham Castle and its collections.
Gordon Cheung is a British contemporary artist whose work captures the mood of the global collapse of civilization – or a dystopian, prophetic vision of it – where moral, economic and environmental crises have spun out of control. Spiritual undertones are balanced alongside familiar contemporary images including sources from popular media, cyberspace, nature, and more recently, from historical painting.
Here be Dragons is a reference to cartographical ‘Unknown Lands’, meaning dangerous or unexplored territories. For Cheung, it frames the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea where new territorial lines are being contested and redrawn. It is also a phrase that is used by computer programmers who warn at complex areas of code, resulting in the glitched immersive animations that see 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting slowly fill the room, evolve and change before the viewer’s eyes. ‘Glitching’* is special computer software used by the artist to interfere with and corrupt his images.
The exhibition explores the birth of the first multinational company and Modern Capitalism as it stretches through history intersecting trade routes, culture and colonisation to the rise of China with authoritarian capitalism.
The work – Course of Empire ascends through a reimagined prophesy of the birth and demise of a fictional civilisation based on the works by American artist Thomas Cole. Large ‘nail house’ landscapes first appear as traditional Chinese Ink painting, but where pagodas would have once been found as a place for spiritual retreat into nature, we now see images of contemporary Chinese homes that are standing firm against commercial redevelopment, resistant to change and the pressure of urban growth.
Warning of the instability of global trade economics and consumer trends, the ‘bull’ (rise) and ‘bear’ (fall) years of the stock market are represented as rodeo riders who dance across Martian, barren landscapes. The use of Dutch Golden Age Still life painting from 370 years ago is used a metaphor for the birth of Capitalism and the first recorded economic bubble called Tulipmania.
The exhibition promises to draw the visitor to the alluring, attractive and highly visual works, glamorised by the accomplished and innovative execution, only later to register the tension of the commentary that underpins the works.
Councillor Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture said: “We are proud to be showing this major exhibition from a major contemporary international artist. It is full of interesting themes which cover past and present, using a mixture of really interesting styles and techniques. There is something for everybody in this show and I would urge people to visit and to see the ideas and themes come through.”
A fully illustrated catalogue published on Saturday 11 June 2016 by Nottingham City Museums & Galleries with texts by Tristram Aver and John-Paul Stonard will accompany this exhibition.
Gordon Cheung: Here Be Dragons is part of the Grand Tour season 2 programme. The Grand Tour reinterprets world class collections through contemporary art at four venues in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with a fringe programme at other leading venues across the two regions. Season two, 17 March – 26 June 2016.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Gordon Cheung graduated Central Saint Martins in 1998, completing an MA in painting at the Royal College of Art in 2001. He was commissioned for a Laing Art Solo Award in 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include Gordon Cheung: The Abyss Stares Back at Edel Assanti (2015), The Solar Cry at Edel Assanti (2012), Altered States at the Arizona State University Art Museum (2010), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at the New Art Gallery Walsall (2009) and The Promised Land at Jack Shainman Gallery (2009). Cheung’s work is currently included in Vita Vitale, The Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Cheung’s works are included in major international private and public collections including MoMA, The British Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, San Antonio Museum of Art, The Whitworth Museum, Arizona State University Art Museum, Knoxville Museum, The New Art Gallery Walsall. Cheung lives and works in London.
Hear Gordon talk about his work and his plans for the Nottingham exhibition in this video by AXISWEB, commissioned by Nottingham Castle Museum
*‘Glitching’ refers to a special open-source piece of computer software that Gordon Cheung uses, based on certain criteria and algorithms, to interfere with and corrupt his images.
Cheung exhibited at Nottingham Castle as part of the prestigious British Art Show 6 in 2005, and this is his first major solo exhibition of new digital works, paintings and animations in Nottingham.
A symposium will take place on Saturday 14 May 2016 at Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery that will be an enjoyable day of illustrated and illuminating lectures by leading international academics on topics inspired, or directly influenced, by the work of Gordon Cheung in Here Be Dragons. Speakers include Paul Gladston, Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures and Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham, Professor Karin Moelling from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Lynne Howarth-Gladston an artist, curator and independent scholar who will examine nineteenth-century botanical illustrations of Marianne North, as well as Gordon Cheung For booking details, see www.nottinghamcastle.org.uk
Free artist-led workshops and family-activities inspired by the exhibition will take place in the Long Gallery on Saturday 14 May and Sunday 15 May 2016 in collaboration with Nottingham Art Map. Free entry on this weekend only with a valid Nottingham Art Map voucher – available from partner galleries. Please see www.nottinghamartmap.com for details.
The Grand Tour
The Grand Tour partnership of Nottingham Contemporary, Chatsworth House, Derby Museums and The Harley Gallery, together with Experience Nottinghamshire and Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, is a groundbreaking example of cultural tourism that aims to showcase the region’s diverse richness of art, architecture and landscape to a new generation of local, national and international visitors. thegrandtour.uk.com; @thegrandtouruk; /thegrandtouruk