The Art+ Shanghai Gallery exhibition “Paradox of Reality: Latest Works by Shen Hua” represents the critical pictorial conclusions to the artist’s recent reflections on realism and, as he puts it, its “inherent” and “insurmountable” limitations.
Realism, as the manner of treating contemporaneity in the most detached and truthful way in the context of art and literature, is ultimately defined through a language, either verbal or non-verbal, rather than sheer facts, absolute truth and objectivity. Yet, language is a mischievous system for realism to freely dwell on when it comes to depicting the reality. In fact, with the series of works presented in the current exhibition the artist questions whether language at all has the ability to let us access the reality, or keeps us away from it.
People rely so much on the language, both verbal and non-verbal, to depict the reality, while what is being deciphered on the end of the receiver is an entirely internal process, that is based on one’s cultural, social and educational background. Since we are so reliant on language to structure our perceptions, any representation of reality always ends up somewhat distorted and even ideological in nature.
This is where the artist’s concern with the paradoxical nature of realism derives from. The three series of Shen Hua’s recent artworks featured in the show, including his monochromes, ‘mirror painting’ and overlapping round canvas portraying hypnotizing circles of color, define the artist’s intellectual position regarding the reality and the way people perceive it and underline his ultimate concern with realism. The artworks on show can simultaneously be seen as superficially simple and intrinsically complex, involving a cumulative interweaving of linguistics, semiotics, socialist ideology as well as abstract and minimalistic tendencies in painting.
For his monochromatic series Shen Hua adopts a minimalist abstraction in which he uses a reduction as an artistic principle, establishing pictorial relationships between the primary colors (yellow, red and blue), paint textures and geometrical shapes. An important motive for the creation of this series was the idea of countering visual pollution of our physical environment with a pure artistic formulation of color and shapes. Color and form were given a full autonomy as concrete values, which represent the reality in themselves.
The series of painted images on mirrors advances Shen Hua’s interest in modes of perception. The paintings on mirrors force the viewers to confront themselves and their surrounding environment in the act of looking rather than simply and placidly admiring the work of art. The series offers an experience that is outside of the traditional art experience. Its unrefined and unfiltered imagery, makes a counterpoint to Shen Hua’s monochromes that are devoid of any external references.
With the “Nomadism” series Shen Hua speculates on the subject of post-modernity and the way it alters the relationship between the reality and the language. The creation of imagery on Shen Hua’s overlapping round canvas resulted from the process of photographing rotating pictures with a slow shutter. The original photographed images were representative of the three most influential leftist social movements and political processes that the history has ever known: socialist revolutions inspired by Fidel Castro in Latin America, Long March led by Chairman Mao in China, and Ho Chi Minh’s trail that for years provided support to the communist forces in Vietnam.
In the setting of augmented and virtual reality of post-modern age, Shen Hua’s whirlpool of colors completely obliterates the connection between the signifier and signified, suggesting chaos and confusion in the world where it is no longer possible to tell the reality apart from its simulation.
The selected artworks featured in the exhibition “Paradox of Reality: Latest Works by Shen Hua” are the result of the artist’s pictorial thinking that is both radical and deeply philosophical. Art+ Shanghai Gallery invites to venture out on a journey of pursuing the absolute truth amidst the multiplicity of ideas and versions of reality and discover even further the paradoxical nature of relationship between the reality and our perception of it.