Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on November 11 of The Way of Chopsticks IV (Coming of Age) by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, their fourth joint exhibition at Chambers Fine Art. Since the early 1990s Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen who have been married since 1993 have had flourishing independent careers, and have established international reputations as two of China’s most prominent artists from the generation who matured in the decade of the 1990s. In this personal and professional achievement, they may be compared with other celebrated married couples of the twentieth century such as Robert and Sonia Delaunay and Jean Arp and Sophie Taueber – Arp.
On four occasions since 2002, however, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have worked on four exhibitions The Way of Chopsticks I, II and III in 2002, 2006, and 2011 respectively in which they evolved a way of working that simultaneously emphasized their closeness while emphasizing their individuality. In conversations with Christophe Mao in 2001, the artists were persuaded to co-operate on an exhibition and decided on the theme of chopsticks which was related to their mutual interest in the transformation of the urban environment at the end of the 20th century but more neutral. The used clothes and other personal items that Yin Xiuzhen used in her works and the battered household furnishings and architectural elements that featured in the works of Song Dong bore traces of previous ownership and their disposability. Chopsticks, on the other hand, are an essential feature of day to day living in Asia which can also be viewed from many different cultural and philosophical viewpoints. A single chopstick is useless but a pair has multiple uses. It also can be seen as the symbol of the relationship between husband and wife, independent but mutually supportive.
With this in mind, the two artists evolved a working method that has characterized all the subsequent manifestations of The Way of Chopsticks. After establishing the general parameters of the exhibition, they would work independently of each other and only during the installation on the gallery premises would they see each other’s work.
The three previous exhibitions have differed widely in character. The first exhibition in 2002 (The Way of Chopsticks I) which they characterized as an exploration of the “theme of Eating, Drinking, Playing and Happiness” had a hand-made, playful character and was accompanied by a substantial catalog designed by the artists. This was followed by The Way of Chopsticks II in 2006 which included monumental chopsticks eight meters in length as well as wall-hung cross-sections of chopsticks and paintings inspired by the ubiquitous security warnings seen everywhere in the United States.
Even more ambitious was The Way of Chopsticks III in 2011 for which the two artists created a pair of monumental chopsticks twelve meters in length. Song Dong was inspired by the beam of a house for his chopstick while Yin Xiuzhen turned to the structure of a crane. On the occasion of this exhibition the artists designed a remarkable catalogue/ object distinguished by dual spiral ring binders that provide a detailed chronology of the history of the chopsticks project.
Eighteen years after the first exhibition Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have returned to the theme in the current exhibition The Way of Chopsticks No. 4 (Coming of Age). Although the meaning of the phrase “coming of age” as well as the age at which it is recognized varies from culture to culture, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen have concluded that their exceptional chopstick project has come of age in November 2019. As a celebration of this momentous event, they will stage an abbreviated retrospective in the east gallery of Chambers Fine Art and an exhibition of new works on the theme in the west gallery. By concentrating on a single theme it will also be possible to trace stylistic developments in their work over the last two decades.
As has become their custom, however, the particular characteristics of this new generation of chopsticks is known only to the artists and will be revealed to their admirers on November 11, 2019.