Nature Series No. 87
September 14 - October 5, 2019
"Liang Shaoji's work is an enlightening reminder of something crucially significant in our lives, our relation with nature, something that has been too often overlooked and excluded in the dominant system's cult of a one-dimensional modernity."
Liang Shaoji was born 1945 in Shanghai. He lives in the remote mountainous city Tiantai, in Zhejiang Province.
As a result of political and social upheavals in China during the Maoist period, Liang Shaoji's career as an artist did not start until after he was 40. Liang was sent to work in the countryside during the "Great Leap Forward" and consequently missed out on a university education. At least, he managed to attend the Middle School at the China Academy of Art. But when the Cultural Revolution began, he had to leave the school to start working as a designer at a linen factory. Only in 1986, when he enrolled at the Varbanov Institute of Tapestry, he was finally able to pursue his interest in experimental art.
Soon after he developed his very own conceptual artistic approach. For over thirty years already, Liang Shaoji works with a very particular media for artistic expression: silkworms. It was in 1988 when he started experimenting breeding silkworms and using them as living co-workers for his work. It became the starting point of a vast oeuvre. Since then, Liang Shaoji is creating installations and performances using live silkworms, as well as objects (often objets trouvés) wrapped in raw silk fabricated by his silkworms spinning around the objects.
In China, silk not only represents generosity, warmth, life, endurance, but also, because silk threads are so very long, human life and history. Liang Shaoji often refers to ancient Chinese literature and Buddhist beliefs, as for example in his work Candles, Nature Series No 87, made out of silkworms, bamboo and candlewax. Bamboo in China is like a person. It represents integrity and righteousness. Chinese intellectuals have always loved bamboo. "Candle" and "bamboo" have the same sound in Chinese, and he used the association in this work. The work is a presentation of funerals and Buddhist rituals and goes back to an ancient Chinese poem from the 9th century, in which a comparison is made between the last drop the wax of a candle and the last end of a thread of a silk worm.
In his intense research on silkworms and nature, Liang Shaoji has developed a clear perspective when it comes to the relation between science and nature: "For science should be the way and tool for humans to discover nature and live with it, but not the means to force and attack it. Anything that overrides life is anti-science and anti-nature."
Liang Shaoji has participated in the Venice Biennial (1999), the Lyon Biennial and the Shanghai Biennial (both 2000). He recently had solo shows at M-Woods, Beijing, and at the Hermes Maison in Shanghai. Liang Shaoji was awarded the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards (CCAA) in 2002 and the Dutch Prince Claus Awards in