The first UK exhibition of work by He Xiangyu. Part of a new generation of conceptual artists in China using a range of media to articulate cultural and social concerns, He Xiangyu is known for his provocative and ambitious work.
Included in the exhibition is an iteration of He Xiangyu's Cola Project, which he started in 2008. For this work the artist boiled down 127 tons of Coca Cola over the course of a year. The resulting material residue has taken various forms including a highly corrosive, pungent earth-like substance, and a black ink that Xiangyu used to make Song Dynasty-style landscape paintings.
For the exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey the soft drink residue is presented in heaped mounds inside three museum display cases, taking on the appearance of geological remains. Cola Project recalls works from the 1960s by artists such as Robert Smithson whilst also providing a commentary on the effects of western consumer culture on contemporary China, by subjecting its products to a profound process of material transformation.
Equally ambitious in scope, He Xiangyu's Tank Project (2011–13) is a life-size military tank made entirely of luxury Italian leather. The work took two years to create, and was hand-sewn by an entire factory of female needle workers, specially trained by the artist. This collapsed and deflated object suggests the steady advancement of Western materialism in contemporary China, and highlights the inter-dependencies of political and economic power.