Cao Yi became an instructor at the oil painting department after receiving a degree at the sculpture department at the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). His graduation project was a series of plaster statues covered with hair, with both the forms and medium being experimental. Later he went to the School of Visual Arts in New York, but studied traditional western painting instead. His recent paintings seem to deliberately blur the boundaries of various techniques. With both the forms and techniques seemingly simple and straightforward, his works give us a sense of child-like persistence. The viewer might slowly feel a kind of pure and silent passion, as if it is driving the artist to whisper to the canvas for an extended period of time. In Cao’s art, classical and modern techniques are all mixed up with unknown techniques. The way they integrate is very subtle and delicate, as if they are easily going to break.
Zhang Wenzhi, Qi Le and Yuan Song are all currently master of arts students at the experimental art department at CAFA. Like every person from Dalian, Zhang Wenzhi has a special bond with his hometown, and is passionate about Dalian’s history and legends. He collects and studies local ghost stories, with some being extraordinary, and some being creepy. As a city by the sea, Dalian’s folk tales are often related to the sea and water. For example, the earthquake is said to be caused by a shaking catfish carrying the ground on its back. This exhibition presents Zhang’s research project of the Russo-Japanese War in Dalian. The artist exhibits paintings, specimen, old documents and objects with a European style Wunderkammer, to present a new version of the Russo-Japanese War. Prestigious Russian and Japanese generals are turned into Dalian’s famous seafood, caught by local fisherman and served at dinner tables. After chewing and swallowing, the gluttons are also turned into seafood. The cycle of reincarnation repeats, as if they are in an execution chamber in the hell.
At the very beginning of her art career, Qi Le had a passion towards stage and performance art, which led to her great interest in stop-motion puppet animations. With no previous experience of puppet making, she mastered the basic techniques in a short period of time, and has developed a unique puppet style. The exhibited is a group of ghost-like puppets, each of which observes its surroundings prudently with eyes wide open. Together they tell a story of deceiving, revenging, destroying and rebirth. The stop-motion animation embodies a special practical meaning. As we live in an era with ubiquitous conflicts, why can’t people get along with each other? Why do people doubt or hate others? Why are we afraid of or hostile toward people or things that do not agree with us? One austere and previous quality about artists is that they are constantly reminding and warning us to cautiously watch the hidden evil and fear.
Yuan Song has a particular interest in things that are in order. Being borderline obsessive compulsive, he is easily stressed because the things around us are often in disorder and chaos. About a year ago, Yuan made the conscious effort to explore the non-orderly part of the world by collecting cheap materials either transparent or sparkling. He piece them together to form a foreign, micro, luxurious world. The works are seductively magnificent on the outside, like a fragmented, highly concentrated view of the consumer world. In a network of colorful rays of light, diamond-like objects shine brilliantly in front of mirrors. Looking at these works is just like entering into a fantasy of desires. Everything looks very beautiful, but in fact we are not seeing anything real but transparent void and mirror images of a maze. What we see in those twisted mirrors are the passionate but confused faces of our own.