China Three Gorges Project
A cycle of paintings and works on paper by Joy Garnett
March 3 – 31, 2010Roger Williams University
School of Architecture, Art and Historic Preservation [SAAHP]
One Old Ferry Road, Bristol, RI 02809
Artist's lecture: Wednesday, March 3, 6pm
The DF PRAY FOUNDATION LECTURE THEATER (ARCH 132)
7pm: Reception SAAHP Exhibition Gallery [Link]
The paintings and drawings presented in the exhibition, ‘China Three Gorges Project,’ are an artist’s response to The “China Yangtze Three Gorges Project,” the monumental and controversial public works currently under construction in China’s Yangtze River valley. The largest hydropower-complex in the world, the Three Gorges Dam has taken several decades to build, engendering the razing of villages, the submersion of factories and toxic waste dumps, the flooding of arable lands, and the displacement of over one million inhabitants. Evacuation mismanagement and ballooning construction costs have raised the specter of government corruption. In recent years, as much of the industrialized world has increasingly turned toward new forms of renewable energy that foster sustainability and environmental stewardship, and even as China claims leadership in this nascent global green movement, the Three Gorges Dam continues to broadcast signals of conflicted priorities. All told, construction of the dam has come to represent China's worst environmental nightmare and a monument to obsolete ambitions.
Close to 100 official public relations photographs that document the transformation of the site can be found on the Three Gorges Development Corporation website: http://www.ctgpc.com. Starting with images of the river valley in its pristine state and moving through the various stages of construction, these photographs attempt to signal the project’s inevitability by offering us a semblance of continuity, positioning the deconstruction of the landscape and construction of the dam against the backdrop of the ancient Chinese landscape. But rather than evoke the centuries-old tradition of Chinese landscape painting, the photographs veer towards soft-focus calendar art kitsch, Socialist Realist-inflected construction sites, factory interiors, and sci-fi laboratories, unwittingly evoking China’s part in the mass production of cheap consumer goods and dated notions of ‘futurist’ techno-utopias.
As a visual response to this cycle of propaganda, the works in the exhibition chart the methodical evisceration of the river valley, rendering the image of the landscape, once immutable, as a fragile substrate to be broken up violently in a triumph of engineering. Through these two linked bodies of work, paintings and drawings, this embattled landscape is apprehended through gestural interpretations of the public relations photographs. The paintings, numbering thirteen altogether, utilize the Western medium of oil on canvas to reinvent the candy-colored source images as expressionist tableaux, while the works on paper, numbering sixty-three in total, exhaustively track the deconstruction of the landscape, eventually verging on complete abstraction.
Paintings: oil on canvas. Drawings: Sumi ink on paper. All works completed 2008-2009.
Installation shots to come.