Veronica C. Wilkinson.
The sight of Sir Joshua Reynold’s statue from one angle seemed to play among the treetops of Ai Weiwei’s Ironwood tree installation in the courtyard of the Royal Academy Galleries conjuring up thoughts of Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and other flights of imagination when I visited the retrospective exhibition in London in September. This exhibition spans disciplines and communicates effectively with the slick punch I have learned to expect from an artist of Weiwei’s status. There is an interesting symbiosis inherent in his conflict with Chinese government authorities and their role in constraints enforced on his travel and multifaceted status and practice as a human rights activist. His role facilitating artisanal work that promotes traditional skill and craft serves to underline the necessity of practical economic intervention to emphasize effective artistic communication in visual signals that transcend language and prejudice. His public support on a practical level is evidenced by crowd funded facets of his endeavours. The exhibition has received mixed reactions from critics with perspectives and impressions as diverse as those of Matthew Collings and Adrian Searle.