As published in artdaily.org

MADRID.- The extraordinary development of the People’s Republic of China in recent years and the opening of new pathways of communication and business with the West have stimulated the world’s interest in Chinese culture. A series of major international exhibitions, music and film festivals, dance and theatre shows, books and literary publications have increased knowledge about this country’s contemporary creativity. Over and above the treasures of its very ancient traditions, China now appears as the setting for a change in sensibility that affects our relationship with our surroundings and tradition, time and customs.

Because of isolation lasting centuries, Chinese artists have developed their own world of images, without connections to what is produced in Europe and the United States. The case of the Yi School is highly significant. Although it was born at the margin of the abstract art and conceptual art that have dominated the Western art world in recent decades, it maintains points of contact with these two. It is art lived as an experience of retreat and meditation that explores contemplation, unity and harmony. After its presentation in Barcelona, "la Caixa" Social and Cultural Outreach Projects is taking to CaixaForum Madrid the first major exhibition of the Yi School outside China, organised jointly with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture and the Beijing Culture & Art Foundation. The exhibition introduces eighty-two works by forty-eight Chinese artists of the last thirty years, divided into three periods. Yi art from the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) until the 1980s is characterised by an idealised humanism in opposition to the revolutionary slogans (Yi xiang, "mental image"). The second period is when art at a time of urban and cosmopolitan expansion recovers private spaces and incorporates Eastern symbols and writing (Yi li, "mental principle"). The third period, Maximalism (Yi chang, "mental environment"), arose at the end of the 1990s and devotes its main attention to the process and the context of the art work.

"la Caixa" Social and Cultural Outreach Projects has devoted several exhibitions to Chinese culture. One of the most recent, "Confucius and the Birth of Humanism in China", introduced the thought and work of Confucius and how this was reflected in art over more than a thousand years. A few months ago, to coincide with the opening of a Representative Office of "la Caixa" in Beijing, an exhibition of fifteen works by international artists from the "la Caixa" Foundation’s Collection of Contemporary Art was put on at the Beijing Art Museum of Imperial City. The Yi School: Thirty Years of Chinese Abstract Art represents its counterpoint. It is designed to bring the general public in our country closer to an artistic school that has had decisive weight in Chinese plastic art from the 1970s until now and to make the work of some of today’s leading Chinese creative artists better known.
The Yi School is defined as an artistic tendency in China, based for the last three decades on the aesthetic essence of Yi. It is distinct both from contemporary literature and conceptual art and from Eastern abstract art. In Chinese aesthetics, Yi does not mean just subjective thought, even though it is a fruit of our mind. It is not precisely equivalent to the terms concept, idea or significance, but represents a state of contemplation and meditation by creative artists, the way that artists or poets think about their surroundings or observe them. In this respect, the Yi School is the artistic style best suited to expressing meditation.

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