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b. 1945, China

Liang Shaoji Biography

Liang Shaoji (梁绍基) works across installation, sculpture, film and textile, and is best known for his use of the silkworm as both the subject matter and material of his practice. Drawing upon Chinese tradition and philosophy, Liang incorporates the process of sericulture—an ancient Chinese practice of rearing silkworms to harvest their silk—into his work. Interestingly enough, the Chinese words for poetry and silk are in fact homonyms. This linguistic relationship illustrates a cultural relationship between the material and philosophy of Liang's work.

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From 1986 to 1989, Liang studied at Varbanov Institute of Tapestry in China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, alongside Marin Varbanov—one of the world's leading tapestry artists. Early in his practice Liang focused on textile hangings and installations, mainly concerned with the materiality of fibre in space. The turning point of Liang's career arrived in 1989 with his inclusion in China/Avant-Garde at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing. This exhibition is seen as a key moment of China's art history. It presented a wide range of experimental practices and was shut down two hours after opening, when fellow artist Xiao Lu shot her installation, Dialogue (1989), with a pellet gun. These shots came to be known as the first gunshots of Tiananmen when the Tiananmen Square massacre took place four months later. Such was the avant-garde nature of the exhibition.

In China/Avant-Garde Liang presented Yi Series—Magic Cube (1988). The work comprised cubes made of metal frames with metal geometric patterns incorporated into their structure. Silk was draped over a few of the cubes, while rice paper wrapped some others. Hidden lights illuminated the translucent surfaces and their steel frames. Also illuminated were the faint shadows of dry silkworm cocoons, spread out across the silk and paper like stars in the sky. Later, when in the process of re-installing the work in Hangzhou, a breeze caused the cocoons to sway in the light. This sight led Liang to consider working with living silkworms. From there, Liang began the investigation that would consume the rest of his life, using the silkworm as the starting point to consider the life-hood of all beings, both within a human-centred philosophy and outside of it. Additionally, Liang focused on exploring the relationship between humanity and nature.

Silk is the proof of a silkworm's short life and its last legacy before mothhood. Silkworms generally have a lifespan of six to eight weeks, and the silkworm's cocooning is, in Kagyu Buddhism, a symbol of samsara—the cycle of life and death. Liang explores such concepts in his 'Nature Series'. At Hayward Gallery in the exhibition Art of Change: New Directions From China (7 September-9 December 2012), Liang presented his 'Nature Series' piece, Listening to the Silkworm/Nature Series No. 98 (2006/12), in which visitors listened to the sounds of silkworms chewing on mulberry leaves, as well as spinning their silk cocoons. The quiet, bubbly munching sound of their eating forced viewers to consider a pacing of existence separate from their own. One of his earlier works in this series was called Bed/Nature Series No. 10 (1993-99). For this work, Liang raised silkworms in beds made of copper wire. Liang continued this work over seven years, and exhibited it at the 1999 Venice Biennale. In Cloud Mirror/Nature Series No. 101 (2007), Liang placed and filmed mirrors covered with silkworm silk threads on Tiantai Mountain. This reflected how the silkworm spins its fibre in figure eights—the symbol of infinity. The clouds reflected from the sky above merge with the soft clouds of the raw silk threads. Liang finds in the finite life cycle of such a delicate creation a realisation of the infinite.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2018

Exhibition view: Group Exhibition, Cache: From B to Z, ShanghART, Shanghai (12 April–30 August 2020). Courtesy ShanghART.

Liang Shaoji Featured Artworks

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Guiguzi 鬼谷子 by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiGuiguzi 鬼谷子, 2009Silk, iron wire
ShanghART Contact Gallery
Tree of Life by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiTree of Life, 2017Lightbox, silk, X-ray film
44 x 36 x 4 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery
Snow in the Woods by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiSnow in the Woods, 2016Willow branches, silk, porcelain, cocoons, burned keyboard, wooden board
34 x 244 x 122 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery
Broken Landscape by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiBroken Landscape, 2008handwriting/rollerball pen on paper
21 x 29.5 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery
Constellation by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiConstellation, 2014Silk
122 x 122 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery
The Script of the Work 'Destiny'-2 by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiThe Script of the Work 'Destiny'-2, 2014Handwriting/rollerball pen on paper
21 x 29.5 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery
Natural Series No.200/Chain (Metal)-A by Liang Shaoji contemporary artwork
Liang ShaojiNatural Series No.200/Chain (Metal)-A, 2012-13Metal chain and silk
33 x 19 x 17 cm
ShanghART Contact Gallery

Liang Shaoji Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Cache: From B to Z at ShanghART, Shanghai
Open Now
12 April–30 August 2020 Group Exhibition Cache: From B to Z ShanghARTWestbund, Shanghai
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Visionaries: The Special Project for MSAC 10th Anniversary I at Mind Set Art Center, Taipei
Closed
8 February–7 March 2020 Group Exhibition Visionaries: The Special Project for MSAC 10th Anniversary I Mind Set Art CenterTaipei
Contemporary art exhibition, Geng Jianyi, Liang Shaoji, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Artist Trio Show at ShanghART, Beijing
Closed
13 July–25 August 2019 Geng Jianyi, Liang Shaoji, Apichatpong Weerasethakul Artist Trio Show ShanghARTBeijing

Liang Shaoji Represented By

ShanghART contemporary art gallery in Singapore ShanghART Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore

Liang Shaoji In Ocula Magazine

LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter Ocula Report LACMA Explores the Allure of Matter By Jareh Das, Los Angeles

The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) (2 June 2019–5 January 2020) is an inter-generational show of 21 Chinese artists working from the 1980s to the present, including Ai Weiwei, Cai Guo-Qiang, Lin Tianmiao, Song Dong, He Xiangyu, Yin Xiuzhen, and Ma Qiusha.

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Shanghai Museum Shows: “Myth / History II” at the Yuz Museum and “Xu Zhen Solo Show” at the Long Museum Ocula Report Shanghai Museum Shows: “Myth / History II” at the Yuz Museum and “Xu Zhen Solo Show” at the Long Museum By Sam Gaskin, Shanghai

Both shows are milestone moments in the institutions’ development. The massive museums—each with about 10,000 square metres of space—are learning to stand.

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Liang Shaoji In Related Press

SHA SHA SHA LIANG SHAOJI Related Press SHA SHA SHA LIANG SHAOJI 1 June 2017, ArtAsiaPacific

Silkworms are surprisingly noisy creatures. For proof, look no further than Liang Shaoji's Moon Garden (2015), a single-channel video work that captures the caterpillars' instinctive, relentless chomping of mulberry leaves and movement as they spin raw silk. Recorded by Liang as he lay on the floor to film the creatures, as if himself a...

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Liang Shaoji Related Press Liang Shaoji 1 June 2015, ArtReview

Last October, when Liang Shaoji's exhibition Back to Origin was on show at ShanghART Gallery in Shanghai, I was coincidentally reading Catching the Big Fish (2006), David Lynch's book on meditation and creativity. In it, the American film director says: 'Ideas are like fish... if you want to catch the big fish, you've got to go deeper.' Over...

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Five rising stars  of Chinese contemporary art Related Press Five rising stars of Chinese contemporary art 13 March 2015, Christies

To mark the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong and our Asia+ sales, five international curators each tip the Chinese contemporary artist they feel most excited about right now. Lu Yang Recommended by David Elliot, curator of the Hayward Gallery's Art From Elsewhere exhibition (currently at the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery) 'At last, women...

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The art of a silkworm's weave by Liang Shaoji Related Press The art of a silkworm's weave by Liang Shaoji 22 November 2012, designboom

On show at the Hayward Gallery in London as part of the Art of Change: New Directions from China exhibition is the work of Chinese artist Liang Shaoji, well known for infusing elements of nature in his installations. The exposition presents a selection of works from his 'Nature Series' which Shaoji began in 1988 where he orchestrated the...

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