Named by The Times as “one of tomorrow’s great artists”, Chinese-born British artist and social commentator Aowen Jin will be creating a unique installation called The Ritual at the historic Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park as part of Museums at Night festival in October. Compton Verney won the Museums at Night Connect competition, beating off four other museums and heritage venues across the UK to ‘win’ an Aowen Jin artist event for the venue. The Ritual will open on Saturday October 29 (until November 13).  

In The Ritual, Aowen will bring the magic of Chinese spiritual tradition alive within the Compton Gallery hall and chapel by shaping it into her own sacred sphere. In this expanse she will use illusion to create a massive phosphorescent rice field installation which visitors will see shine, glow and fade as they cast light over it with UV torches.

During the show visitors will be given a bowl of rice to participate in the ritual and create an offering in the main hall. In the evening, they will be given UV torches to reveal the magic, as the specially treated rice reacts to UV lights and glows in the dark. Glowing rice trails will guide visitors to various artworks spread across the grounds, leading to the gallery’s newly refurbished ‘Capability’ Brown chapel and crypt where they’ll uncover a series of works by Aowen and other artists that she has curated.

Aowen explains “The artwork was inspired by Compton Verney’s impressive collection of Chinese bronze works, dating back almost four thousand years. Vessels that were used for ancient rituals dominate these artifacts. I am creating a contemporary show that reflects the culture, tradition and history behind these objects – which is now largely lost, but which is still a crucial influence in China’s culture today.”

“Thirteen thousand years ago, China became the first civilisation to cultivate rice. Throughout Chinese tradition, rice has always been the sacred offering in Chinese rituals – usually used when praying for a good harvest of rice that year. A simple bowl of rice can symbolise prosperity, prestige, appreciation and fortune – and as recently as fifty years ago, during the period of Cultural Revolution and famine, rice was so scarce that today rice has become the symbol of that period. By creating these magical rice fields, I want to transport people back to the beginning of civilization and remind them about the spirituality, wonder and magic that our ancestors felt about the world. In this over stimulated contemporary world, I hope this show reawakens the viewer’s curiosity.”

Aowen Jin has a unique position as both an outsider and an insider in Chinese society. Much of her work questions why people live the way they do, and she spends years living within a community or embracing a sub-culture to create new insights into contemporary society.

In The Ritual Aowen Jin explores the idea of art as part of a cultural exchange –a bridge between the cultural differences of China and the UK. The juxtaposition of traditional Chinese ideas of ritual placed within an English country house has a special fascination for her-presenting Chinese traditions in a contemporary art environment.

Director of Compton Verney, Dr Steven Parissien says “We’d like to say a huge thank you to all the people who voted for us and who made this event happen – it’s all due to you we can bring exciting, visually stunning contemporary art to the Midlands and rural locations such as ours.”