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First Time in Italy for Xu Bing

For the first time in Italy, the strength of characters in the works of a leading Chinese artist was central at an exhibition that kicked off here at the Palazzo dell’Arte (Palace of Art), the headquarters of the Triennale art institution.

One of the most highly respected masters of Chinese contemporary art, Xu Bing, explores the mystery of written language in his work.

Xu Bing, born in Chongqing in 1955, is one of China’s most acclaimed living artists with exhibitions in the world. His “Character of Characters,” a video animation illustrating the birth and relation of Chinese characters with human history, was the starting point of this project aimed at making the excellence of Chinese art known to a Western audience, curator Hans de Wolf told Xinhua at the exhibition preview.

Xu Bing told Xinhua that in his rich life experience – he has witnessed the Cultural Revolution and has lived for 18 years in the United States before going back to China – he has put a “high degree of research” in these artworks produced in a lapse of time of more than 30 years.

All of this complexity together with the contrasts and harmony born from his encounter with the Western culture is reflected in “Square Word Calligraphy,” also on display at the exhibition, almost a code designed by Xu Bing. At first glance it appears to be Chinese characters, but in fact it is a new way of rendering English. Chinese viewers expect to be able to read it but cannot, while Western viewers are surprised to find that they can read it.

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