The Opposite House, Beijing hosts China Toy Stories by Laurens Tan

Until December 31st, The Opposite House, Beijing play host to works from the Red Gate Gallery. Showcasing 4 pieces from Laurens Tan in the Hotel atrium, the exhibition includes three life size rickshaws and a sculpture representing the Chinese ‘Happy Toy’.

Laurens Tan’s toy-like works have an impartial innocence and sense of play, which become a voice for his close and constructive observation of China’s cultural drift in the evolution of globalisation. His compelling analysis of language is the basis for his sculptures, installations, industrial design constructions, his 3D animations and digital media.

The three life size rickshaws on display at The Opposite House atrium are made of fiberglass, steel, plastic and baked enamel. Happy Toy comes with LEDs and a rotating sculpture of a tree bearing fruits with people under it. Alluding to the Chinese Happy Toy, perceived as too garish and in bad taste for the discerning home-maker, their kitsch cheapness gives the toy its fascination and idiosyncrasy. The AA battery operated colourfully–lit toy plays corny Chinglish love songs. Like the rickshaw itself, the Happy Toy may also face extinction to make way for more modern tastes.

Inspired by a trash collecting rickshaw at Xidan, the white rickshaw bears the Chinese characters of “logic” and “intuition” juxtaposed on each side of the object. LaJi (rubbish) is here phonetically linked to LuoJi (logic) while ZhiJue (intuition) is mirrored on the opposite side. The coinage of LuoJi indicates that there is no existing Chinese word for logic.

“Birth” is the title given to the red rickshaw with a carriage home to an army of little figurines. Part of the “Depth of Ease Series” women workers arise from the red ‘egg’ transported on a rickshaw frame. The rickshaw is iconic on Beijing roads as a home-made people carrier, illegal and unsafe, but demonstrates the ingenuity of people’s natural improvisational skills. The Chinese Text: Ji Du You Xian, a close translation of the ‘Depth of Ease’ is a commentary on Chinese contemporary society and a reflection on China’s cultural and economic current trajectory. It’s also an expression of the structural beauty of the Chinese character.

The Holland-born Chinese artist’s studies in Chinese language are constantly interrupted by his inquisitive and interrogative nature – never able to accept meanings and contexts at face value. In search of a blueprint for identity, he uses language to uncover customs, changes in attitudes and values otherwise obscured from view.

Opposite House General Manager, Anthony Ross says “Beijing was once known as a charming bicycle city and Laurens’ contemporary twist on these traditional Chinese rickshaws effectively captures and bridges the fond memories of old Beijing with today’s post-Olympics urban wonderland.”

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018

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