The joint exhibition Edge of Vision will open its doors at the Linda Gallery in Beijing’s 798 Art District on May 1, 2014. This exhibition will present the artists Li Shan, Sun Liang, Shang Yang and Xia Xiaowan, all leading representatives in the exploration of vision in contemporary art. The exhibition will continue until June 30, 2014.
The research of vision in art has been a subject to which we have constantly returned and explored. After Danto declared the end of art, beauty did not die, and philosophy did not replace art. In contemporary art, many artists have created new forms of observational and visual logic, and continued to push forward the exploration of vision in creation. Art did not die. Instead, the boundaries were repeatedly broken, expanding into many new forms of art. The practices of artists Li Shan, Sun Liang, Shang Yang and Xia Xiaowan are highly representative of this visual exploration in contemporary art.
Shang Yang sets out from vision and maintains its primary status, but he has never been a pure visualist. Shang Yang’s works are the generation of installations through painting and the generation of painting through installation, the resulting artworks standing somewhere between these two mediums. What does the simultaneous presence of two opposite things mean? It is precisely within the connections of this simultaneous presence, the stark contrast between these two materials, that their own properties are catalyzed. Here, it is only when one object is linked to another object that its meaning is generated. In his works, visual forms and materials are imperceptibly transformed into the subject of the discussion. Through the accumulation of an enormous amount of perceptual experience, Shang Yang stripped away the visual language he learned at the academy layer by layer, eventually reaching a painting that depicts pure conceptual imagery and establishing a visual approach to painting that is all his own.
Li Shan is one of the most important contemporary artists in China, and has been featured in many important contemporary art exhibitions and events in China and around the world. During his career, Li Shan’s art has undergone several radical transformations. From Order and Expansion to Washing Feet and Rouge, and on to the biological artworks in the Reading series of paintings, as well as digital images combining humans and insects, we now have a clear view of his biological approach to art. At the core of Li Shan’s biological art is the embellishment of living genes arising from a particular awareness of life. Li Shan’s art possesses powerful vitality and revers absolute freedom. He began with a powerful “self-awareness” and set out to further refine his concepts to eventually form an individual visual system.
By the 1990s, two artists born in the same period and residing in different regions were both well-known for their depictions of bizarre spirits and demons. People often spoke of “Xia Xiaowan in the north and Sun Liang in the south.” Sun Liang’s creations have been lauded internationally for their experimental and painterly qualities. Since beginning his creative journey in the early 1980s, his style has transitioned through symbolist, expressionist, fantasy and abstract phases, growing increasingly mature over time. Compared to traditional Chinese gongbi painting, Sun Liang begins his creative process by first materializing the organism, and then reconstructing atop that materialized organism an imaginary space that fits with Sun Liang’s spirit. The entire creative process is at once violent and refined, combining the sanguinary and the beautiful, eliciting thoughts about the end of life just as it brings visual enjoyment. Since 1995, Sun Liang has grown intensely interested with oil painting on animal skin. The eight new works in this medium featured in this exhibition can be seen as the maturation of this practice.
The visual languages of Shang Yang and Li Shan discarded perspective altogether, but Xia Xiaowan grasped onto perspective and space within his visual language, researching them on a deep level, conveying the concepts from his early paintings more directly to the viewer. Xia’s experiments in “spatial painting” are not limited to form. A deeper cause is found in his examination of “human nature,” that changing, tenacious state of life reflected through man in a dynamic social environment—a form of life that has been squeezed and warped, yet remains full of vitality. The space in Xia Xiaowan’s “spatial painting” is itself a rational understanding of painting. It is painting about painting. As developed as contemporary art today is, Xia Xiaowan’s “spatial painting” represents fresh innovation. This exhibition will surely provide viewers with a wholly new experience.
Edge of Vision has selected the artists Shang Yang, Li Shan, Sun Liang and Xia Xiaowan, representative artists of the generations born in the 1940s and 50s, as the subjects of its research, a selection that embodies the murkiness of vision as a subject of objective research in contemporary art, this murkiness itself embodying the uniqueness of each artist’s creations. The expansion of the boundaries of vision in painting has added significance to the penetration of external disciplines. Contemporary art will not die because of philosophy. Instead, it will gain new and tenacious vitality through this penetration by external disciplines.