About the NGV
National Gallery of Victoria
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square NGV International 180 St Kilda Road About the NGV


Artist, Artwork title, year

Chinese 1965–
1/2 1998
type C photograph
128.0 x 107.0 cm
Private collection, Melbourne
© Zhang Huan

Artist, Artwork title, year

CHI Peng
Chinese 1981–
Consubstantiality 2004
type C photograph
87.5 x 116.7 cm (image); 97.2 x 126.8 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the NGV Foundation, 2004
© Chi Peng, courtesy of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing

Body Language:

Contemporary Chinese Photography

14 March – 18 May 2008
Temporary Exhibition Space 1,
Ground Floor, NGV International

Over the last decade, Chinese photography has undergone a remarkable period of transformation and growth. Often reflecting an urgent desire to explore individual and social identity in a time of unprecedented change, a group of Chinese photographers have used their own bodies as the vehicle for creative expression and critique.

Body Language highlights key photographs that reflect the tensions in Chinese society as the processes of social change meet traditional culture and expectations head-on. In an environment where free expression is proscribed, these artists use the physical form closest to them (their own body) as a means to communicate in a complex, multi-layered and often coded way with the wider world.

This exhibition features photographs by Zhang Huan (To Raise the Water Level in a Fishpond); Sheng Qi (Memories); Huang Yan (Chinese Landscape – Tattoo); and Liu Wei, whose massively scaled work Landscape will be shown in Australia for the first time.  Also included will be stunning photographs by younger artists, including Chen Nong and Chi Peng. 

A key consideration of the exhibition is to show how photographers mine the aesthetics of Chinese painting (with the emphasis on calligraphy and the relationship between people and nature) transforming these classical concerns into contemporary statements, through the non-traditional use of the human body.



NGV: Art like never before