What is there “Before It All Starts”? A prelude, a performance that precedes and sets the stage for the main event. What is it like “Before It All Starts”? Vague, ambiguous, chaotic and entangled... The big picture and the origin of the so-called “main event” are often unclear and the relations among things seem in a constant state of flux.
It’s been thirty years since the emergence of “85 New Wave”, a widely-recognized starting point for Chinese contemporary art. During the course of history, thirty years may not seem a long period. But it’s undeniable that this has been a thirty years of unprecedentedly dramatic developments. At such a meaningful point, it is imperative for us to look back and to review the origin. In this regard, the exhibition intends to probe into the original state “before it all starts”. Despite all the inevitable chaos and ambiguity, it is only through the origin that we may access the very nature of things. In terms of media, to explore the boundaries and interplay between photography and painting constitutes the theme of this exhibition. Feng Lianghong and Huang Lei are typically artists dealing with painting and photography; while Feng Yan, Wu Di and sound art collective Soviet Pop are known for their interdisciplinary practice. To use painting and photography as a point of departure, they attempt to go further and transcend the media per se through interacting with other media as well as pushing the boundaries in between, to investigate the absolute and relative significance of media and their impact, both sensory and psychological, on those living within the picture of reality.
Feng Lianghong’s abstract painting dated back to the 1980s. During the past thirty years, as he moved from Shanghai to Beijing to New York and then back to Beijing, his painting practice, accordingly, has been under constant evolution and experiment. He’s always been committed to the figuring out of his own language of painting. Managing to find peace with the sense of loneliness he encountered at the beginning, he has devoted himself to the study of abstract painting, keeping making advancements in a quiet and yet steady manner. Feng Lianghong’s painting features a sense of fullness, and forcible sleekness, irregular splashing and seemingly casual ornament are delicately delineated under his brushstrokes. An emphasis on the perspective relations between color blocks and planes, the proportional sizes of brushstrokes, the complex spatial relations created by varying lines, and the combination of both natural and unconventional light sources can be perceived within his painting. To him, it seems the more hustle and bustle there is, the more straightforward and purer his journey in the realm of abstract painting becomes.
Being a witness of China’s New Photography Movement in the 1990s, Huang Lei has kept observing the surrounding world through the camera lens for over twenty years. With a focus on Qingdao, the coastal city where he lives, on zoos and museums around China and on objects commonly seen in everyday life, he wants to share with viewers his insights into the nature as well as life. To him, photography is more than a way to record and to represent. What is unveiled through the lens is the subjective world of his own, in which still life, animals and landscape play the role as media for him to convey his ideas and insights. Featuring traditional black and white photography skills and some hand-painted oil colors, his work is imbued with strong colors and imposing texture, giving out a sense of surrealism which integrates strangeness, hallucination and blurriness. The Vase series (2013) features two pieces in each set. Adopting western classic composition, the two pieces form a sharp contrast between blossom and decay, inspiring viewers to ponder further upon the passing of time and life through casting light on the completely different status of life.
After living in New York for long time, Feng Yan now is based in Beijing and tries to figure out a means for self-expression through a variety of media including film, literature and photography. Featuring minimalist composition, subtle light rays and unique choices of forms, Feng Yan’s photography tends to shift viewers’ attention to those seemingly “insignificant” things. In other words, it inspires people to take a second look at things that have been taken for granted and to reflect upon the significance of details. He adopts a kind of documentary-like narrative way to portray daily objects. Through the succinct forms, viewers are lured to realize the political or historical meaning that permeates through the public and private daily living spaces and that is often neglected. Sides of Paintings series originated from a dozen of paintings Feng Yan completed during 2013 and 2014. No longer satisfied with paintings being simply presented and collected by art museums, he’s shifted his interest to photography-like “painting”, or say painting-like “photography”. Each so-called meaningless aspect - the textures magnified by macro photography - not only offers viewers a different visual experience that goes beyond painting appreciation, but also illuminates the efforts to unify objects and images (magnified detailed textures with no specific purpose) through photography.
Being the youngest among all the participating artists, Wu Di’s work features paintings, collages and installations, and often gives out a sense of perceptual conflicts and multiple layers of viewing experiences through the overlaying and collages of images. When religion is interwoven with human misery, the scenes of reality hereby reflected is brimming with a sense of mysticism. The eight pieces of painting/collage are all recently made. Through the organic and ingenious combinations different materials, emptiness and fullness, positivity and negativity, part and whole, continuity and cessation, wander through the classic and the contemporary in a state where conflicts and harmony co-exist, completely breaking through the boundary between painting and photography. By “returning to the origin”, her practice probes into how images are produced, reproduced and viewed and hence can also be seen as the internal process for the symbolization of man as existence. The large-scale installation at the atrium of the gallery space imbues the whole space with a sense of glory and harmoniously fits with the overall architectural space. Soviet Pop, a sound art collective consisting of Li Qing and Li Weisi, is known for their use of modular synthesizer, tape recorder and virtually anything that can make sounds. They have a preference for feeble sound and delicate sound details. The sound piece collectively produced by Wu Di and Soviet Pop takes reference from concepts such as appropriation, decomposition, folding, collaging and reproduction, extending the sensory experience of the exhibition.