WAGIC’s forth blog issue, shortened to take us up to the Christmas break, asks the question: What is a ‘Chinese woman artist’?
This issue is inspired by events such as Hou Hanru’s all-woman Venice Biennale China Pavillion selection in 2007; the multi-venue UK exhibition of female Chinese artists coming up in 2018 titled, Now; the Woman Culture Museum about to re-open at Shaanxi Normal University, and scholarship such as Gendered Bodies: Towards a Woman’s Visual Art in China by Shuqin Cui.
Our two main contributors in this issue, Christina Chung and Luise Guest, without prompting, both examined the contested role of ‘feminism’ in interpreting art by women in China. Christina Chung does this by writing about Beijing-based curator and art historian Liao Wen. Luise Guest meanwhile considers this question in relation to the artists Tao Aimin, Gao Rong and Dong Yuan. The question of whether feminist theory can be applied to the interpretation of art intersects here with debates concerning the meaning of ‘Chinese artist’ or ‘Contemporary Chinese art’ – also hotly debated categories.
Periodically, there are exhibitions within cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou or Shanghai that only include artists who identify as female. Often this means that the artists – or their artworks – are framed as having shared characteristics by virtue of being female. It places the women as separate to their male counterparts and imposes a (binary) gender interpretation onto their work.
Yet groups of women can have common life experiences, including similar barriers to becoming professional artists. Focusing on outputs by female artists can go some way towards placing them and their concerns closer to the centre of the conversation. The tentative conclusion that we reach to this question is that perhaps it is only though curatorial practices that ‘Chinese woman artists’ occur.