He Xiangyu: Cola Project

16 March – 5 May 2012

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, He Xiangyu 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 includes 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.

Although simple in form and material, Cola Project is weighed with both modern and ancient history. At once examining the colonising impact of global advertising and the foundational cultural history of Song Dynasty Painting, Cola Project represents a conception of history and time that is very different from a Western perspective, and a young artist making sense of our contemporary times within the context of a thousand years of cultural history.

Header Image: He Xiangyu: Cola Project, exhibition view. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

Exhibition documentation

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Cola Project Resin, 2009-10, cola. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Antique Series, 2011, Chinese ink and coke resin on silk. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Cola Project Production Photographs, 2009-10, C-print photographs. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Antique Series, 2011, Chinese ink and coke resin on silk. Private collection, Taiwan. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Cola Project Tools, 2009-10, pots and induction cooker. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Cola Project Tools, 2009-10, shovels and gloves. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Cola Project Tools, 2009-10, cover cloth, rectangle pot, cola-boiled small jade pieces. Courtesy the artist and White Space, Beijing. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu: Cola Project exhibition view. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

4A the Cola Project

He Xiangyu, Skeleton (detail), 2010, jade. Courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery, Shanghai. Photo: Zan Wimberley.