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Xiang Yun 祥云

exhibition, Black Space, XiaYuan (Beijing)

Christopher Pelley  Xiang Yun  installation

Like the shepherds in Poussin's “Arcadia”, we approached the marble stele, worn with age. Our fingers gently traced the intricate design. “Xiang Yun” said my friend Feng JiaLi. The marble, possibly from the Ming Dynasty renovations of the ancient temple complex, was as enigmatic for me as the inscription was for Poussin's shepherds.


Xiang Yun. Auspicious Clouds. Maybe simply interpreted as good luck, clouds are also the bearer of omens. In English, every cloud has a silver lining but dark clouds appearing on the horizon bring with them change, and not always for the better. Clouds are also seen as the receptacle of our dreams. Gazing overhead, above the rooftops, we watch them drift by.


Where is the fervor of the dreams of our youth? The fires of passion do not burn endlessly. At one end of this exhibition/ installation is a red political style banner that translates “Do Dreams Grow Old And Die?” The wall behind the banner is covered with telephone numbers, about the only graffiti I have ever seen in China. Everything is for sale in this new economy, and everything is just a phone call away. In the center of the gallery is the wooden frame of a traditional village house, its bare bones embracing an old bed and a quilt rolled up at its feet. Monochromatic paintings of clouds line another wall. A large painting of a Maoist era jacket is also hung.


Christopher Pelley  Do Dreams Grow Old and Die?  political banner

Christopher Pelley  15 Xiang Yun  oil/canvas  each 70 x 90cm

Nothing is ever simple; everything has multiple interpretations. Reading the omens correctly and deciphering the intended meaning is the impossible task. Are the clouds that blow really lined with silver, or is it just the color of lead?

This year (2016) is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of violence and turmoil that has permanently scarred the Chinese psyche. There were no celebrations or even acknowledgment of the event. Visitors to this exhibition though, did not fail to notice my oblique references to that epoch.

Christopher Pelley  Large Xiang Yun  oil/canvas  150 x 200cm

Christopher Pelley Coat  oil/canvas  150 x 120cm

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