During Art Basel Hong Kong 2017, Tang Contemporary Art’s Hong Kong space will present an exhibition of six Chinese contemporary artists: Cai Lei, Shen Liang, Wang Jun, Wang Ningde, Yan Bing, and Zang Kunkun. Entitled “Motif and Material” and curated by noted curator Bao Dong, the show will open on March 20th, presenting the artists’ conscious mastery of the thematic or formal links between their materials, media, and artworks, links which have become the core of their artistic ideas. The artworks span painting, sculpture, installation, and photography, with many of the artists taking multi-media and interdisciplinary approaches.
The word “素材” (pronounced “sucai”, now commonly translated as “source material”) originally meant “motif,” the basic elements, subject matter, or theme of a piece of art or design. In contemporary artistic practice, this traditional idea is still relevant, and many artists have developed their artistic languages and working methods based on their own motifs. Thus, discussions of artists’ methodologies inevitably touch upon their artistic motifs, especially if we want to analyze the implicit relationship between motifs and methods.
Thus, this exhibition has borrowed on this traditional idea of sucai and divided it into “Motif” (factors, elements) and “Material” (substance, media). This stresses thematic elements and artistic media, in order to discuss the artists’ conscious mastery of the thematic or formal links between their materials, media, and artworks. Cai Lei’s sculptures are the combination of the material of concrete and the experience of space. Shen Liang’s painterly conceptions are revealed in the meticulous depictions of small objects, while Wang Jun manages the dual status of the painted object and the painting as object. Wang Ningde deconstructs and reconstructs the relationships between photography’s materiality and technique, and between its social and documentary qualities. Yan Bing’s work combines country mud and modern objects in daily life, and Zang Kunkun intervenes in the relationship between the objects inside the paintings and the objects outside the paintings.
In the work of these artists, materials and methods do not exist outside of subject matter, having an aesthetic and conceptual value that is constructed together with the theme. Their artistic practices echo their experiences, and more importantly, re-stimulate the activity of their respective artistic categories.