Echo Morgan is the English name of Xie Rong, a Chengdu-born, London-based, multi-disciplinary artist whose work is underpinned by a dark family story. She works with stereotypes of ‘Chineseness’ and femininity in order to subvert them. Morgan has written texts on her skin using red lipstick, black Chinese ink, white ‘ink’ made from jasmine tea, and her own breast milk after giving birth to her second child. She has played with tropes of Chinoiserie, painting her naked body to resemble blue and white porcelain, and then inviting the audience to violently wash the patterns away by hurling water-filled balloons at her. Her work mines her own experiences of childhood, family, marriage and motherhood – and those of her female ancestors. She is a story-teller.
Juxtaposing English narration with Chinese traditional songs, Morgan plays with her complex hybrid identity and her difficult childhood. She explores the territory of translation: between two languages, between gesture and stillness, between her Chinese past and English present, between performance and image.
Galerie Huitis currently exhibiting the debut solo show in Hong Kong of the Chinese multi-disciplinary artistÂ Xie Rong, otherwise known asÂ Echo Morgan. Rong was born in the southwest province of ChengDu, China in 1983 and has lived and worked in London since the age of nineteen. Within her work, Rong oscillates between the role ofÂ performer, filmmaker, director and artistic narrator, operating across the intersection of a variety of mediums including painting,Â performance, film, prints, publications, short stories andÂ audio works. The current exhibition, entitledÂ å®¶Home, consists of an extension of the core thematic and aesthetic preoccupations Rong has explored in her previous work, predominantly the use of her personal prismatic and textured family experience as a reflection ofÂ the political, ideological and philosophical complexities and transformations of Chinese society…
A Broader Reflection of the Female Working Class Experience
The second dominating project within the exhibition is Rong’s sequel to I am a Brush, from which the exhibition takes it’s name – Home. The piece is comprised of an original performance, a video work and the parchment retaining the traces of Rong’s performative presence. Homeis reminiscent of Rong’s previous performance pieces including Be the Inside of the Vase (2012) and Little Red Flower (2012). The correlation can be seen within two avenues. Firstly the use of the narration of her own troubled childhood and relationship with her parents (particularly her father) and by extension the society within which she was raised. Secondly, the process of transforming her body into symbols, be it the Chinese national flag, blue and white porcelain, Chinese landscape painting or in the case of Home a more monochromatic reflection of the contradictions between her cultural identity. In this sense, in Home, Rong projects a more overt reflection of her cultural juxtapositions and her attempts to reconcile her socialized political and gender conforming upbringing with her intellectual and political confliction through her international exposure. However, arguably this is a somewhat superficial reading as, in my opinion, „Home“ projects a broader reflection of the female working class experience of both east and west. In this respect, despite in the obvious cultural nuances, which are not to be diminished of critical importance, in actual fact the core narrative characteristics and anecdotes are largely a global tale of subjugation and a struggle for the psychologically, physically and financially oppressed to overcome.
Ultimately, Rong’s debut Hong Kong exhibition depicts a strong foundational voice and aesthetic. Although there are notable influences from prior body art practice and both Eastern and Western cultural and artistic iconography – a large degree of indebtedness to Yoko Ono, Yves Klein and Carolee Schneemann, for example – Rong’s appropriation and assimilation of both cultural narratives is what makes her work particularly interesting from a critical perspective but also as an illustration of the interconnected and mutating cultural psyche’s of an internationalist ‘millennial’ practitioner….