Thu, 20th Oct, 2016
A special six-month season of exhibitions and events at Impressions Gallery takes a fresh look at Chinese culture and the long-entwined histories of the UK and China.
It’s the most populous country on the planet, and predicted to soon become the world’s biggest economy. Despite being geographically distant, China and the UK have centuries-old relations, from a mutual national obsession with tea, to a shared history with Hong Kong, and today’s big business investments. Yet contemporary China remains, to many, unfamiliar territory. Views From China at Impressions Gallery offers a chance to get up close to Chinese culture, with specially-commissioned exhibitions by the new rising stars of photography, a contemporary Chinese tea house, talks, workshops and tea ceremonies.
The first exhibition of the season, The Queen, The Chairman and I by Kurt Tong, 16 December 2016 to 18 March 2017 draws on the artist’s Chinese, Hong Kong and British family history. Described by Tong as a photographic ‘who do you think you are’, his multi-stranded saga of love and tragedy uncovers family secrets and reveals the impact of the British Empire and Chinese Communism – embodied by Queen Victoria and Chairman Mao of the title – on the lives of individuals. The show combines new and heirloom photographs, rare colour film footage from early 1940s Hong Kong and a contemporary Chinese teahouse where visitors are invited to drink tea and share their family stories. Held to coincide with the twenty-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty from British rule, and to celebrate Chinese New Year on 28 January, the show offers a timely reflection on the themes of multiculturalism and migration.
The second exhibition of the season, Mother River by Yan Wang Preston, 31 March to 24 June 2017, is a photographic odyssey that takes the viewer on a journey along the entire length of the Yangtze, often known as China’s Mother River. The epic project follows a simple premise: to document the 6,211km route of the river from source to delta, using a strict Y Point System to photograph every 100 kilometres. Made over a period of four years, Yan Wang Preston travelled to the remote high Tibetan Plateau through the Three Gorges to the river’s end at Shanghai. The resulting exhibition, specially commissioned in partnership with Gallery of Photography Ireland, is an insightful look at the inner life of China, where traditional landscape clashes with present-day development.
An accompanying events programme offers visitors the chance to find out more and have a taste of Chinese culture. Kurt Tong, making a special trip from his home in Hong Kong, and Yan Wang Preston, a native of China’s Henan Province, will be sharing their stories and experiences through a series of artist talks and workshops for photographers. A programme of cultural events, run in partnership with The Business Confucius Institute at University of Leeds, will enable visitors to try their hand at traditional crafts including Chinese lantern-making and Chinese kite-painting. A particular highlight will be the regular tea ceremonies held in the contemporary Chinese teahouse. Making a British cuppa might seem very simple, but in China the perfect cup of tea requires a number of intricate steps. Visitors will learn about the background of this thousand-year old tradition, before taking part in a tea ceremony, tasting authentic teas, and even having a go themselves.
The season runs from 16 December 2016 to 24 June 2017.
Kurt Tong’s contemporary Chinese teahouse and the Chinese cultural events programme are sponsored by The Business Confucius Institute at University of Leeds.