IAC Art Talks Lecture 2: Half the Sky: Women Artists in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art by Dr Luise Guest (Catch up Online)

The event was held on Tuesday 11 May 2023.


From the Modernist Storm Society in Shanghai in the 1920s, to Bohemian artist enclaves in the early years of Reform and Opening, and to a generation of global artists today, Chinese women artists carved out their space within a patriarchal artworld that tended to exclude them. Half the Sky: Women Artists in Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art introduces artists of three generations. Some have global reputations and others have never or rarely exhibited outside China. Some claim a feminist identity and others are ambivalent. From the early 20th century ‘new woman’ or xin nüxing 新女性, to the emergence of the post-Cultural Revolution avant-garde, and to today’s younger generation questioning aspects of gender identity, female subjectivities have informed the work of women artists. Some of the artists discussed will include Pan Yuliang (潘玉良) and her extraordinary journey from a Shanghai brothel to Parisian artistic circles in the early twentieth century; matrilineal dynasties of artist mothers and daughters such as Qiu Ti (丘堤), Pang Tao (厐壔) and Lin Yan (林延); feminist founder of all-female Sirens Studio Cui Xiuwen (崔岫闻); significant painters Yan Ping (闫平) and Yu Hong (喻红); Tao Aimin (陶艾民) and her work with the ancient female script Nüshu 女书, and young sculptor Liu Xi (柳溪). For myriad reasons Chinese women artists have a complicated and ambiguous relationship with (Western) feminism, yet many make work that subverts gendered systems and structures of power. Whether claiming a feminist identity or not, their work emerges from the significant life experiences of women—they gaze inwards at the self as well as outwards to the world.

About the SpeakerLuise Bio Image

Dr Luise Guest is an independent writer, researcher and curator. Her writing about Chinese contemporary art has been widely published in print and online platforms including The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, The Journal of Chinese Contemporary Art, Art Monthly Australasia, Artist Profile, Randian and Yishu. Her first book, Half the Sky: Conversations with Women Artists in China, was published in 2016 by Piper Press. She curated an exhibition of artists featured in the book in Beijing and Hong Kong in 2016 and Tao Aimin's first solo exhibition in Australia at Vermilion Art (2023). She wrote the text for the White Rabbit Collection book, 99 Artists (2019) and is now working on a new book examining Chinese artists whose work challenges masculinist traditions of ink painting. Currently teaching in the Masters of Curating and Cultural Leadership at UNSW, Dr Guest’s research interests include aspects of gender and national identity in art from Greater China and the influence of Buddhist and Daoist thought on the work of contemporary artists. https://www.luiseguest.com.au/

All images are courtesy of the artists