WEB POSTER EXHIBITION - Pictorial writing - Chinese typography posters

He Jianping
China, 2005

In this poster by Wang Xu in memory of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, some of the strokes of the name of the city are missing to evoke the ruins. Jianping He points to the respective part of the chinese character.
This web exhibition accompanies the current exhibition Pictorial writing - Contemporary Chinese Posters at the Hochschule fuer Gestaltung und Kunst, Roessligasse 12, Lucerne (Switzerland) from September 14 to November 6, 2005, curated by Jianping He and Urs Straehl.

The following figure captions and pictures were kindly provided by Jianping He, who also designed the exhibition poster. Please see the News item for an introduction in english, german and chinese.

The poster at left, also made by Jianping He, for a taiwanese poster exhibition with the theme "Chinese Character", is my all time favorite. The meaning of the two characters is "China", they were formed in ceramics by the sculptor Sonny Kim He, and painted in the traditional decorative pattern found on porcelain tea cups which are also called "china" in the western world. The peach blossom branch is a symbol of Taiwan, which unexpectedly, for me, transformed this esthetic master piece into possibly the most beautiful political poster ever made.

I can not read chinese, nor would I know the background, if Jianping He had not told me. He had many more stories about the posters as he was guiding the swiss students through his exhibition, a real eye opener, which brings up the point whether you can enjoy a poster, or an other work of art, or another culture, without "understanding" it? The answer of one of the locals attending the opening was a resolute "No!", if he could not read what was on it how could he know if he liked it or not. My personal answer on that question is that I know so little about so many things that I would derprive myself of a lot of beauty if I insisted on understanding all. Also much fun would be spoiled. And eating from the tree of reason got Adam and Eve thrown out of Paradise, and that's the last thing I need.

Which then brings up the related point how these posters would fare in international poster competitions? A very prominent non-chinese designer and frequent jury member told me that if he did not understand the language, he would always ask for a translation, as otherwise he would be unable to decide if form and content of the poster were in harmony, an important quality criterion for him. Well, the translation of the poster at left is "China", as mentioned before. Does this make the poster any better or worse or clearer? There is a lot of cultural context that simply escapes these "200 posters in two days" type of judgements.

A typography poster exhibition in non-latin alphabets, be it iranian, chinese or even cyrillic, always excites my curiosity if there are any common typopgraphic rules or theories that apply to all of them? If not, what is alphabet specific, and why? The answers I heard from typography experts were always quite vague, mostly retreating to the position that if you do not understand the content you can not say anything about the form. If you disagree with this, I would love to hear from you.

Jianping He has done a great job of introducing poster designers from the western world to his chinese colleagues and students, through his numerous book publications. I feel very privileged that he now also presents his chinese friends to a western audience, like in his first exhibition in Berlin in 2001. We still have a lot to learn about China to be able to fully appreciate these works, and the chinese designers are ahead of us in the business of knowing the other side. But from what I have seen in Lucerne, it will be an exciting trip.

Bai Zhiwei
Suzhou Image, 2003

Bi Xuefeng
Cite Internationale des Arts, 2005

Cao Fang
Chinese characters & music, 1997

Alan Chan
Nagoya, 2001

Leslie Chan
Paper, 2004

Bob Chen
Hangzhou graphic designer Salon, 2005

Chen Guojin
Nine lifes (live forever), 2003

Chen Shaohua
Communication, 1996

Chen Yuanchuan
Image refraction, 2000

Sandy Choi
1994 4As Creative Awards, 1994

Han Jiaying
Fusion, 1999

He Jianping
New Graphic, 2004

Hei Yiyang
I love chinese characters, 2003

Jiang Hua
Eastern Zhejiang Culture, 2004

Kan Tai-Keung
1995 Taiwan Image, 1995

Freeman Lau Siu-Hong
Compatible difference, 2005

Lee Ken-Tsai
A of Taiwan on sale, 2005

Li Yingwei
X symbol character touch, 2003

Liu Zhizhi
Jue - aware, 2004

Liu Yang
Discover Asia, 2003

Pan Qin
The exhibition of exceptional student work, 2001

Henry Steiner
12. Hong Kong Print Awards, 2000

Tsang Kin-Wah
Untitled, 2004

Wang Xu
60. Anniversary of Hiroshima atomic bombing, 2005

Wang Yuefei
An inspiration from Tibet, 2003

Xia Wenxi
Man and God, 2005

Yang Zhen
Face to face, 2003

Yu Ming-Lung
The 28. Golden Horse film festival in Taiwan, 1991

Zhang Dali
Characters or picture, 2003

Zhang Dali
Characters or picture, 2003 (detail)

Zhang Wanbao
3D font, 2005

Jianping He in front of a poster by Zhao Feng, "Impressions of Shanxi", 2004

home  previous exhibitions  page created on October 19, 2005 / this section is part of Rene Wanner's Poster Page /