Exhibition dates: 12 November 2013 - 02 March 2014
Rewriting the Landscape: India and China
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

The curatorial purpose of this exhibition is to observe how representative artists from India and China recreate their own conceptualized process of reality through the idea of landscape. This is to trace and read the artist's view of the changing reality that is incited by their contact with social changes occurring to each country as much as the individual projection of the truth drawn from their thoughts and emotions.
Landscape is a perceived portrait of a view that is composed of particular scenery whether it is purely natural or accompanied by human presence. The idea of landscape has evolved over a long span of the history of art, which demonstrates to us the changing aesthetic criteria conceived out of descriptive or perceptive statements about the world around the artist. Particularly in post - Renaissance Europe, the artist delivered 'landscape' in the form of a physical depiction of Nature that is opposite to and possibly beyond the modernized human realm. It offered itself as the embodiment of an ideal world as well as the locus of individual artistic expression to its absolute and transcendent capacity, which paved path for an abstract.

The evolvement of the idea of landscape in art vividly reflects the changing relationship of humans and the world. The contemporary artists of today create the deliberation of the present world in which the majority of the global population strives to build up a fairly homogenized modern environment - the dominant view of which is sprawling, fragmentary and materialistic. Experiencing a totally different contemporary landscape, they try to see through separate extrinsic elements within the modern corporeality, and conduct a dialogue with what is lost and enmeshed with the continuum of time. All the artists that are featured in this exhibition re-write the landscape of social changes mediated by their inner artistic compulsion, and their works suggest to us what seems to be passage of access into the kernel of India and China.

The resemblance between India and China in terms of economic development is impressive, but in fact they carry very distinct personalities as countries: two histories, two cultures and two different parts of the world. Perhaps because of this disparity, which is strongly rooted in their pasts, it will be superficial to only look at the narrow strip of 'now'. We must scrutinize how the complications and entanglements of their history stuck in the fabric of the present are coagulated in their art.

What is attributable to the substantial difference between India and China at large is that China went through a revolutionary course during the modernization of its society unlike India. What they gained, along the way, was the effect of a supreme government that arguably, unlike India, managed to implement its centralized power to bring about waves of political and social change throughout the entire nation. This severely affected Chinese art and culture. After Mao's sweeping Socialist Revolution, the downright imposition of Social Realism fell onto the art scene. The artists conformed to this constraint, and it was only after the end of the Cultural Revolution, under Deng Xiaoping's ascendancy, that China slowly began to open its doors to the rest of the world and simultaneously artists expressed their will to break away from the socio-politically uniformed artistic agenda. This conditioned the new beginning of 'the scream', which interfaced with the global exposure of Chinese art of the relatively narrow 'contemporary' path. China, a decade after the new millennium began, has been going through the full impact of the government's implementation of laissez-faire, and the former tendency of resistance in art is losing its ground. Time also has intervened; those who were born after the revolution became adults as a new stratum of the social and cultural terrain. The new generation of now is inclined to see their present not so much from the perspective of defying the oppressive political ideology but of an invisible social regulation to tame and frame individuals. This is indicative of the society's radical shift, which largely conditions many Chinese artists and compels them to adjust their views of reality and their own life. The artists participating in this exhibition feel impelled to articulate their perception of another overwhelming change of reality, and thus, 'moving on after the scream'.

All the selected Chinese artists implicitly or explicitly comment on the social phenomena of China. Some reinstate what is considered intrinsic to Chinese culture or summon historical facts and memories to be inserted into layers of the present. Some try to cast their gaze beyond 'the now' towards the aesthetic impetus, to break away from a limited human capacity for emotion and perception. Others ponder on the rift of the collective and the individual and also make a flavourless and unaesthetic statement on the surviving wisdom with which people are compelled to move on from, not weighed down by misery and deprivation. The younger artists featured in this show express this state of mind. They have to re-construct their own reality out of the constant flux of changes that are politically diluted yet even more equivocal.

As for India, after gaining independence from Britain in 1947, it was incredibly difficult to assert positive social, political and economic change on a national scale. Dissimilarly from China, there was no centralized power that stabilized Indian society after their independence. From 1950s to 1990, India was shackled with problems ranging from aggravated religious conflict - something that had been rooted in their ancient history - to widespread corruption and extremely slow economic growth. It is generally agreed that after 1990, with the gradual influx of economic liberalization, India became visibly a much stronger and developed nation. However, this is not to say that Indian society simultaneously became firmly braced under the structure of the nation, as violent religious conflict remained strong, and is still a serious and unsolvable issue today. It is clear that India retains each separate cultural unit with a tradition-ingrained attachment in coexistence with the modern social structure. Expanding from this, we want to identify India in this exhibition to be "under the roof of no nation".

The selection of senior Indian artists is essential in showing the audience an important continuing occurrence in their flow of history: the deeply entrenched Hindu-Muslim conflict that has personally affected some of the artists who have grown up in places like Kashmir and Gujarat. It is vital for the audience to understand that the pain and harrowing sense of loss felt by the countless innocent victims should not be masked or numbed in any way. Interestingly, these artists simultaneously shed importance on appreciating the beauty and richness of such multi-cultural places - aspects that are crumbling away under the force of ethnic conflict. We should not be identifying them under a single story of violence. These artists believe in confronting history rather than escaping from it, and with reflection, bring about cooperative reconciliation. On the other hand, the younger Indian artists provide quite a different view on their landscape, with a much bigger focus on India's rapid globalization and development of today. Industrialized India is unsettling, and in many ways extremely exhausting for society. From the artists' personal experiences with this significant transition in their lifestyle, they clearly convey how the dominance of modernization and technology creates a rift between themselves and their fluctuating environment. Inevitably, traditional lifestyles are being replaced with complexities that are overwhelming and new, and can sometimes also bring pain despite the promise of civilization.

In this light, what is presented in the whole exhibition space, each pertinent to the element of landscape, will be integrated into and remembered as part of the viewers' construction of this "third" landscape. In this way, the exhibition reflects both the artists' and the viewers' landscapes of India and China at the same time. The artists' personalized or socialized artistic idiom is suffused with the aesthetic philosophy inherited from their pasts and cultures. All chosen works are charged with the artistic deliberation on the intensity of the changes in today's society, as though the artists were standing on a particular vantage point looking out at the complex world.