The first thing you notice as you enter the gallery is a large mound of coal on the building’s first floor. And then you smell the coal, and that’s what prepares you for the exhibition upstairs.
As you walk around the exhibition, the next thing you notice are buckets and tools covered in sticky, black, coal products. They were used in the manufacture of the exhibition, including works which use coal as the primary medium, There are photographs, too, of the coal being transformed. Other works in the exhibition include a full body skeleton, which I guess, is to symbolise the origin of coal.
According to the exhibition’s association blurb…
Developed in 2008, Cola Project is an audacious and ambitious work that investigates material transformation, the products of global capitalism and the impact that its images have upon human culture. In 2008, the artist worked with factory workers to boil up thousands of litres of cola drink over a period of a year. This ubiquitous material was slowly transformed into a syrupy black sludge and finally into lumps of gleaming coal-like crystals. These crystals were later ground down and turned into ink, which the artist then used to create Song dynasty style ink paintings, in the age-old manner of artists reproducing the landscape and sentiment of master paintings. He Xiangyu is a young artist whose work is representative of a kind of minimalism embued with a strong conceptual foundation based upon Chinese cultural thinking. The exhibition at 4A will include a large quantity of the black crystals, together with examples of the artists paintings, and a human-scale jade skeleton, which has had the corrosive properties of the black crystal material applied to its precious surface.