Ai Wei Wei's Coloured Vases
I was keen see the exhibition of work by the Chinese artist while I was in London and to add my voice to the question everyone is asking: Where is Ai Wei Wei?
He was detained by the authories in Beijing on April 3rd and has been held ever since without charge. There has been worldwide condemnation of his arrest and concern about his safety until he was seen briefly by his wife recently. Ai Wei Wei is the son of the poet and intellectual Ai Qing, who was exiled and humiliated during the Cultural Revolution in China. Ai Wei Wei has been an ourspoken critic of totalitarianism in China, using blogging as his major weapon of free speech. He spent many years in the West and then initiated a revolutionary art movement in China.
Ai Wei Wei's art is enigmatic and often disturbing. One can only deduce the meanings. The most controversial is this one, Coloured Vases. Himself an expert in ancient Chinese ceramics, he has covered these Han Dynasty pots (about 2000 years old) in industrial paint, and in doing so destroyed their intrinsic value. According the gallery brochure, the desecration of the vases "can be seen as a political comment on the organised destruction of cultural and historical values that took place during the Cultural Revolution, when everything old was replaced by the new."
I think he's also demonstrating the freedom required by political artists to shock, the courage needed to combat censorship and the risks that have to be taken to make the voice of liberty heard.
There's a website providing information and news regarding Ai Wei Wei's situation, with an international petition calling for his release.
I chose this image of the pots because it included some Chinese people who were animatedly discussing the work.