Celebrating the Poetry of Abstraction at Pifo Gallery in Beijing

Though based in Beijing, PIFO Gallery assembled an impressive group of Chinese and international artists for the ninth edition of their annual group show. Befitting its title, “Poétique” asserts that, for many abstract artists, the genre is more than a foray into formal experimentation. Each artist also responds to the sensual side of abstraction, reveling in the subtle emotional beauties created by pure color and form.

Pattern and repetition are crucial to many of the paintings on display. Often, abstract art is associated with an outpouring of strong feelings, like, say, the rage one may envision embodied within a Jackson Pollock painting. In contrast, the relative restraint displayed in paintings by Wang Jieyin could be seen as focusing on a more meditative, peaceful state of being. Works like Wispy No. 1 (2014) are built up through a steady and precise layering of black, white, and gray dots. The technique harkens back to George Seurat’s pointillism, used here to far more somber ends.

In Wang Shilong’s intensive practice, hundreds of undulating lines are carefully drawn across a sheet of paper. In No. 84 (2009), these waves of pattern are interrupted by a vertical “tear”—a thin gap where the lines fail to connect. The absence reads like a wound, a memory of pain and the inability to fully heal.

Other artists in the exhibition embrace color as a means to capture feeling. Huang Yuanqing layers dense, earthy tones amid swaths of beige, while the German Enrico Bach creates quirky canvases of overlapping rectangles. Liang Quan’s Untitled (1988), meanwhile, recalls everything from Rauschenberg to cave paintings.

Though the artists on view at PIFO Gallery were diverse in style, each committed to abstraction not as a question of aesthetics but as a way to probe a distinct emotional universe.


—A. Wagner


Poétique: The 9th Annual Exhibition of Abstract Art” was on view at PIFO Gallery, Beijing, Apr. 23–Jun. 5, 2016.

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