Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square
1 September – 4 November 2001
in Gairloch Gardens
Curated by Marnie Fleming
In the wake of the excitement over Shui-Bo Wang's 1998 Academy Award nomination for best short documentary film, Oakville Galleries examines Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square, the critically acclaimed film that earned the Montreal-based artist this honour. In addition to presenting screenings of the film, the exhibition showcases a selection of the still imagery that comprises the kinestatically-animated documentary. These images include both family and archival photographs, but are largely comprised of Shui-Bo's politically charged drawings.
The film itself is a poignant visual autobiography that candidly traces the coming of age in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s. As former Globe & Mail Peking Correspondent, John Fraser, writes, "It is a chronology of declining faith in the Communist Party and rising confidence - no doubt through a haze of confusion and anger - in the logic of the artist's own learning, observations and experience." In just twenty-nine minutes, Shui-Bo takes the audience on a journey from his childhood, under his beloved Chairman Mao, to his days as a propaganda poster artist and member of the Red Guard in the midst of government oppression, to the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre.
Shui-Bo's drawings chart the complex relationship between Chinese artists and the Communist regime through cycles of openness and repression. Deified representations of Chairman Mao give way to scenes of government-incited tragedy; Pop art and Renaissance icons replace traditional Chinese illustration; Coca-Cola bottles collide with Karl Marx's portrait. Shui-Bo's masterfully juxtaposed imagery stunningly testifies to the artist's struggle to sort out conflicting ideologies to see his world truly.