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More than 'women's art'
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Feminism has had a transforming impact on contemporary art and 19 Chinese female artists show just what feminism has liberated them to create - from the intensely private views of life to the big picture.

The "Breath and Depth" exhibition at the Creek Art Center in Shanghai features oil paintings, ink-wash, sculpture, video and installation.

Feminist art or "female art" is difficult to define, and some consider the term dismissive and pejorative, referring to trifling and very personal art. There's a wide range, however, and women do tackle the big issues.

The show does not focus on feminist art so much as it tries to explore what feminism has freed female artists to do.

A small sculpture of a sleeping newborn baby by Jiang Jie from Beijing has inspired a "baby adoption" campaign worldwide. Two hands moving under a transparent white gauze appear in a video project of Shanghai native Wang Yida.

Ceramics and weaving, traditionally regarded as women's work, are enjoying a revival. Those seemingly milder artworks can convey powerful messages.

For more than 11 years, Shi Hui from Shanghai has been weaving her artworks with flax, iron threads and rice-paper pulp. "People say my artworks are installations - I would rather call them my abstract paintings," says Shi.

"Knit" is a large-scale installation with 12 wooden frames filled with irregular shapes of iron threads and other fibers.

"Working with fiber material is the best way I can express my inner feelings," explains the artist. "Walking from frame to frame offers people an intimate feeling with nature. I am trying to set up an experimental space where the relationship between people and nature can be explored."

Fujian-born artist Chen Xiaodan presents a large-scale ceramics sculpture. Two three-meter-high sculptures, in the shape of oxen bones, are carved with white butterflies. She draws a sharp contrast between the powerful ox bone and the fragile butterflies.

Chinese female artists began expressing themselves forcefully, yet very personally, in the 1990s. With greater awareness of women's issues and the value of their interior life, they create works that are often closely tied with their personal stories. They convey feelings of loss, fragility, disillusionment as well as introspection and hope.

There are the obvious: paintings of nude girls, sculptures of babies, exaggerated sexual organs, and high-heeled shoes that are hanging from the ceiling.

Some artists have liberated themselves from intense self-exploration and female-oriented works and addressed environmental, cultural and political issues.

Date: through April 8, 12-8pm
Address: 423 Guangfu Rd, Shanghai
Tel: 6380-4150

(Shanghai Daily March 14, 2008)

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