This new series by Ye Hongxing strikes the viewer through each piece and the exhibition as a whole, as well as the technique of intricate details and the questioning she raises. Reflecting upon a fast evolving society which seems to be running in the dark, the artist questions herself on the direction we are taking both as individuals and as a society – and invites us wanderers to acknowledge these issues and reflect upon them.
Going back to an earlier material of predilection, she will be presenting during this solo exhibition at Art+ Shanghai a series of white marble sculptures, each modeled after an iconic bottle of perfume or alcohol, thereby creating a peculiar cabinet de curiosité. These objects, familiar and known to all, nonetheless emit a sense of discomfort through a presence that feels like it should not be. And then the contradiction appears, between the shape of an object conceived to be ephemeral, and its representation using one of the most durable materials there is. The artist starts questioning the environment she was born within and how it evolves, and the blurring lines separating the long and short term.
In her new series of sticker paintings, Ye Hongxing reinforces her use of symmetry and parallelism, merging further than ever before modern imagery, currency under several forms and the patterns from mantras and prayers. By her insisting use of bills as a medium, she here again pushes us to face the blurred line separating major aspects of our lives.
Religion is money, money is a religion – from stock-listed temples to the disorientation of a society striving to reinvent itself, trying to create a common path leading to a strong future but on the basis of a complex past, the moral compass that should be guiding each of us seems to have lost its voice.
Ye is also reinterpreting the Mani stones one can find in the greater Himalayan region, piled on top of each other or aligned to form sometimes kilometer-long walls, leave a testimony for generations to come of the wishes and prayers left by those who have preceded them. By cheekily switching the prayers atop with infamous logos, China mid-century imagery, pop culture symbols as well as the original mantras, Ye Hongxing questions us on what we are really wishing for in our everyday lives. In the troubled times we live in, we call for a better society, more human interaction, common core values as well as goods and services, but without ever truly prioritizing or giving a sense of hierarchy to define what we consider as most important and indispensible to obtain.
We strive for always more simplicity through design, task delegation to robots and algorithms, relying on apps and services to manage our lives - but no matter how hard we try, consumerism still places us back in a situation of constant accumulation, leading us to lock ourselves behind self-built walls of non-essentials. This concept of pointless accumulation is central to the work of Ye Hongxing, whether expressed through piles of stones, stickers or numerous small marble sculptures: accumulation can lead to discovery, as there will always be a detail that went unnoticed left to look for. But at the end of the day, aren’t all these small things really just there to hide the bigger picture?
By providing us with a mirror into our lives as individuals, and the direction we are taking as a society, Ye Hongxing makes us wonder if the path of consumption and interchangeable values we walk on will eventually lead us to illumination or absolutely nowhere.
By the clarity of her message and the preciseness of her execution, the artist catches our attention and forces us to reflect upon the priorities we give to our lives and how they inset themselves into the greater whole of society. In these times where everything goes ever so faster, where immediacy supersedes longer-term and hushed reactions overtake pondering the right answer to a problem before acting upon it, Ye Hongxing helps us take a step back and reflect upon where we stand today, and most importantly where we truly want to be tomorrow.