Since 1980s, Mr. Xu Bing has always stood at the forefront of the avant-garde art scenes in China, thereby contributing to and boosting the international acclaim of contemporary Asian art. Mr. Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, Sichuan province, in 1955, and grew in up Beijing from 1957. During the Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966, he was sent to labor in a farming village in Northern China. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1977, he enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Arts where he studied printmaking.
Beginning in 1987, he devoted four years on creating more than four thousand "fake" Chinese characters (radicals of the Chinese characters were recomposed to construct non-existent fake Chinese characters). The resulting work, "An Analyzed Reflection of the World-The Book from the Sky", in which he woodblock-printed these characters, was presented in a first major group exhibition of contemporary art in China, "China/Avant-Garde," in Beijing. His concept caused a sensation by shattering the conventions of those with a background in Chinese characters, and even aroused a fierce debate known as the "Xu Bing phenomenon." This work also marked the full-fledged beginning of installation art in China. The great achievement that was marked by his "fake Chinese characters" holds a legendary presence today.
Since his move to the United States in 1990, his realm of influence extended beyond to the West and other parts of Asia through numerous participations in important international exhibitions. His representative work from the 1990s, "The New English Calligraphy", presented "English/Chinese characters" that are composed of English alphabet letters. Infused with an open approach to which an audience was invited to take part, the work won international acclaim from a wide group of people, ranging from professionals to the regular viewer. "The New English Calligraphy" is an innovative work in which the walls between Eastern and Western culture, and the notion of contemporary art as being unapproachable, were overcome.
In the past few years, Mr. Xu Bing's work of involving texts and letters has seen further development, as seen in works such as the landscape painting composed of Chinese characters. His artistic stance, which is deeply rooted in his own culture and yet always infused with the possibility for creative leaps, has become a guiding force to his fellow contemporary artists in Asia. The great influence and contribution that Mr. Xu Bing has delivered through his art makes him a worthy laureate of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.