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Kan Xuan Video Art Exhibition at Ikon Birmingham

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Event: -
First UK Exhibition For Chinese Video Artist
The first UK exhibition by renowned Chinese artist Kan Xuan takes place at Birmingham's famous Ikon art gallery. Visitors will see a wide selection of single screen video pieces made by the artist dating back to the late 1990s.

Kan Xuan, video installation, artist, art at Ikon Gallery Birmingham, Chinese artist
A film still from Kan Xuan's Island video installation (2006-2009). Courtesy of the artist and Ikon


Xuan's work has been described as refreshingly unpretentious and economical in style. The videos exemplify a profoundly philosophical approach to human existence and her work is often based on personal experience.

The free exhibition remains at Ikon art gallery from July 6 to September 11.

The artist is seen in one of her early videos, Kanxuan! Ai! from 1999, in which she is seen dashing through subway tunnels shouting her own name, as if searching for herself, and then answering in the affirmative, "Ai!". An Ikon spokewoman said this video shows Xuan "moving against a tide of heaving humanity, at once anxious, funny, romantic, whilst making a clear political statement, exemplifying the plight of an individual in the face of a totalitarian mass."

Kan Xuan, video installation, artist, art at Ikon Gallery Birmingham, Chinese artist
Chinese artist Kan Xuan exhibits her work for the first time in the UK at Ikon gallery, Birmingham. She is pictured here in her 1999 video work Kanxuan! Ai! Courtesy of the artist and Ikon


Kan Xuan left her hometown, Xuancheng in southern Anhui province, in 1993 to study at the China Academy of Arts in Hangzhou, which had influential teachers Geng Jianyi and Zhang Peili.

She began working with video after arriving in Beijing in 1998, subsequently enrolling at the RijksAkademie Amsterdam, and later returned to live in China, in Beijing, in 2009.

Other works being shown in the video art installation are Looking, Looking, Looking For , made in 2002, which traces the movement of a spider across two naked bodies. There is also A Persimmon, in which Xuan passes a piece of ripe fruit between her hands, reducing it to a juicy pulp in the process, thus combining lusciousness and cruelty.

A video from when the artist first arrived in Europe is A Happy Girl. It was made in 2002 and shows an empty sculpture pedestal in a pleasant leafy garden, suddenly occupied by the artist, naked and dancing joyfully.

Kan Xuan, video installation, artist, art at Ikon Gallery Birmingham, Chinese artist
A still from Kan Xuan's A happy girl video. Courtesy of the artist and Ikon


But her later works showed Xuan becoming preoccupied by the effects of globalisation and its economic impact, both in China and the West. Influenced by noticing a widening gap between rich and poor, she created artworks such as Garbage in 1999 and Island after that.

Since returning to China, Xuan has embarked on a number of large scale installations and short documentaries, focusing on aspects of Chinese history. The exhibition is supported by Galleria Continua.

Kan Xuan at Ikon art gallery
Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace,
Birmingham, B1 2HS
6 July - 11 September 2016
Admission free
For further information, visit the Ikon gallery website.
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Why? First exhibition in UK by Chinese video artists
When: From July to September 2016
Phone: 0121 248 0708
Where: Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Birmingham city centre
Cost: Free
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