“This is all I’m going to say, you know what I mean’ is a touring group exhibition that brings together artists based in the UK and in China. The first stop will be in Project Space Plus, Lincoln, with a wide range of artistic expression, by seven contemporary artists – Steve Dutton, John France, Chunmei Liu, Fang Lu, Mengmei Zheng, Tao Zhang and Eleni Zevgaridou. Their artworks range across traditional oil paintings, multi media works, Chinese ink paintings and contemporary sculptures, with a common theme of commenting on opacity in language, particularly in a spirit of critical realism. An opportunity for cross-fertilisation between artists from the UK and China, the project will continue in Beijing and Tangshan in China.
This title implies a particular phenomenon in the field of Chinese Contemporary Art — although the Chinese contemporary art is influenced by almost every branch of European art, yet there’s one piece is missing — the text-based art with literal meaning. Only a few Chinese artists’ works involved in text-based art (such as Xu Bing’s Tianshu), but their text are always without any real character or literal meaning, they only do them in visual art.
One of the reasons of this phenomenon is the political background in China — the government doesn’t allow people to speak freely. If there’s any critical word in an artwork, the artist might face to a risk of being punished. Therefore the Chinese artists tend to express their critical minds only in visual artworks. Audience would only get the message from the artists by studying the image, instead of get it directly from the literal text.
As to the artworks from the Chinese artists in this exhibition, all of their works expressed a positive critical-realism spirit — the struggling from the modernized society, the anger of damaged environment by the over-speed industrial development, the worrying for the dark side of the human nature, etc. The strong visual impact from their works descripts different stories in China.
Besides the Chinese artists, British artist Steve Dutton brings his text-based artworks to the exhibition, express his ideas to the audience directly with text. Since text-based art with literal meaning is still a field yet to be found in China, the contrast and communication between visual art vs. text art and Chinese contemporary art vs. British contemporary art become very attractive.
So the title “this is all I’m going to say, you know what I mean” is an explanation of this phenomenon — “you can figure out my words from the image, but I won’t speak out or write it down, you know what I mean because you know it as well. “