For West Bund 2019, Chambers Fine Art is excited to present the work of three generations of Chinese artists – Shang Yang, Song Dong & Yin Xiuzhen, Shi Chong, Zhao Zhao, Li Qing, Yuan Song, and Pixy Liao – who are engaged with different aspects of traditional Chinese culture while finding ways envigorate it through the lens of contemporary society.
Recent works by Shang Yang and Song Dong & Yin Xiuzhen deal with environmental issues. In Shang Yang’s most recent works, landscape and everything it stands for is the essential subject although now in the second decade of the twentieth century it is a landscape that has been hollowed out, debased by human greed and pride. His Decayed Book series testifies to the decline of culture and political civility in these troubled times. After graduating from the Fine Arts Department of Capital Normal University of Beijing in 1989, Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen achieved international fame independently before deciding to work together, confronting social issues through intense gestures and actions that have deep personal meaning. Mist is a collaborative painting in response to the high levels of smog and pollution in Beijing.
The younger generation of artists touch upon contemporary society in a more playful manner. With Ping Pong, first shown at his breakout exhibition at Chambers Fine Art in 2011, Zhao embraces a subject matter dear to the heart of the Chinese people, a sport in which they excel. The large, colorful paintings of ping pong reduce this fast-moving sport to a generalized, heraldic presentation of the paddles and ball used in the game. The images become instantly iconic. In complete contrast is the work of Pixy Liao, who has spent over a decade documenting her personal relationship with her partner Moro. Her Experimental Relationship series turns traditional gender roles upside down, with Liao in full creative control, and Moro assuming the role of her muse.
Li Qing is known for his tromp l’oeil technique, painting directly on glass panes that are then installed into salvaged wooden window frames. His work deals with the anxiety of living in an age of mass consumerism, over-development and society’s rapidly shifting cultural views. Yuan Song’s assemblages also come from salvaged materials, but in his case he collects contemporary, factory-made materials that are reflective or translucent in nature, piecing them together with neon lights in colorful ‘collages’. Like Li Qing, he recognizes the anxiety that comes with the flashy consumerism of contemporary life, although his focus is on the seductive, yet ultimately false, narrative of luxury and beauty in today’s world.
Nature as Measure
In a special section of our booth, Chambers will present a selection of works that build upon our recent exhibition Nature as Measure, which was curated by Candice Madey of Stellar Projects. Artists Mary Simpson, Jenny Perlin, Song Hongquan, Fu Xiaotong, Guo Hongwei and Yan Shanchun share in their process a layering of natural forms with systems and structures. Although the use of grids, parameters, and processes in making their work references a rational and ordered architecture, these artists challenge the hubris and folly of human design, while also exploring the political and social ideologies embedded in everyday representations of nature.
Mary Simpson’s paintings, watercolors, and drawings have long alluded to mythologies of ancient and contemporary culture, referencing the human and natural forms through poetic abstractions. Similarly, Guo Hongwei adds a metaphorical layer to his work through the choice of poetic and allusive titles. His recent works derive their imagery from natural mineral formations, which he reconfigures into imaginary landscapes, using various mixtures of varnish and oil on canvas.
For Fu Xiaotong, paper is not a surface on which to paint but rather a material to be explored by thousands of pinpricks that result in landscapes or more recently, ambiguous forms that suggest patterns in nature. In contrast, Song Hongquan is inspired by specific objects from nature, although his finely crafted marble sculptures are situated on the cusp between exact replication of seeds or spores and biomorphic abstraction associated with modern sculpture.
Jenny Perlin’s oil stick works on paper reference Henri Bergson’s seminal text The Creative Mind, in which he addresses the color orange as ‘the component part’ between red and yellow. Perception of color is in reality a variety of shades – and Perlin employs different brands of cadmium red, orange and yellow (R&F, Windsor & Newton, Sennelier) in order to illustrate the breadth of our individual intuition. Perception through memory is the underlying theme of Yan Shanchun’s work, in which West Lake in Hangzhou, one of the most famous and beautiful landscapes in China, is the sole subject of his paintings and prints. Rejecting the traditional media of oil on canvas or ink on paper, Yan evolved a hybrid technique in which the image emerges from multiple layers of sanding the layers of plaster powder on which he paints, allowing only glimpses of landscape motifs to emerge.