John Armstrong
Back (2010). Image credit: Zhang Yuan.

Artist talk with John Armstrong

March 30, 2013 – 3pm to 4pm

Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present “Cynical Realism and beyond: A look at contemporary art in China”, a talk by visiting artist John Armstrong on Saturday, March 30th at 3:00 pm. The talk is free and everyone is welcome to attend.

In 1992 Beijing art critic Li Xianting coined the term Cynical Realism to apply to a generation of artists who responded to the climate created by China’s brutal suppression of the 1989 student protests in Tiananmen Square. Artists such as Ai Wei Wei, Zhang Xiaogang and Fang Lijun upended Social Realism, the propagandistic art promoted by the Communist party, to create slyly humourous artwork that often presents a coded critique of Chinese politics and society.

John Armstrong travelled to China in 2011 for a two-month artist residency in Caochangdi, a market village and officially designated ‘art zone’ in the north of Beijing. He will provide a survey of some of the artists associated with Cynical Realism, as well as a view of Chinese and international artists working in Beijing today.

At the end of the lecture, Armstrong will screen a portion of his collaborative (with Paris artist Paul Collins) 2012 video Academy, Caochangdi, which was shot over several weeks in a flooded side street in Caochangdi.

John Armstrong is an artist and writer who teaches painting in the studio division of Art and Art History, a collaborative Honours B.A. program between Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario and the University of Toronto Mississauga. Over the past ten years, he has collaborated with Paris artist Paul Collins: their paintings on photographs, videos and publications have been on view in a number of solo and group exhibitions in Canada and Europe. Armstrong was a member of the Board of Directors of Mercer Union from 1991 to 1997, and has curated exhibitions in Toronto for Mercer Union, The Textile Museum of Canada and Harbourfront Centre, in Peterborough for Artspace, and in Kingston for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. He has published many reviews and articles for C International Contemporary Art; his writing has also appeared in ArtsAtlantic, BorderCrossings, Canadian Art, Parachute and The Globe and Mail, as well as in exhibition catalogues. John Armstrong and Paul Collins are represented by General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto. Visit their website for more information:

This talk is free and everyone is welcome. Seating is limited.

BMO Financial Group is the generous sponsor of Plug In ICA’s artist lecture series.