Studio Gallery Shanghai is thrilled to present the group exhibition 「THere」.
One month ago, two new interns joined in Studio Gallery’s work team. They have both come back from studying abroad, one of which has not yet graduated. Due to the worldwide impact of the epidemic, she could not go back to the country where she studied abroad, but only continue her study through online courses. She has to overcome the time block, finishing her courses at 3 o’clock in the morning and then come back to day work in gallery.
Last year, we organized a new exhibition about residency project. As an artist with residency experiences, Liang Zihan participated in our discussion on exhibition, during which she struck us a sense of relaxed sincerity with a rather humorous note. It was a really impressive conversation, and coincidentally, she had also just returned from abroad at that time.
Long before these exhibitions, I have also travelled throughout the world to converse with people who share related experiences. After several visits to studios of local artists, talking with unrecognized young art students and respectable senior artists in a period of intensive on-ground observation, it gradually leads me to a rather new vision. Individuals who normally own relatively blurred boundaries is enabled to be divided into several elements such as educational, cultural and hereditary element and so on. It is the composition of each individual element that makes a distinct difference. From then on, with this sharp perspective, I start to reflect upon myself and to decompose every individual around me in the hope of finding out anything that still remains undetected but thought-provoking.
These scattered messages flashing at some moments make me become more curious about a group of artists who have the same background of studying abroad. With my curiosity, I invited Liang Zihan, based upon whom we immediately establish a connection with the other ten artists. Born in a period of 1991-1996, these young artists are typically the superseding wave of the new generation, who have just returned from abroad or accidentally stay in home because of the worldwide pandemic. After visiting their own studio and hear their stories, a whole picture finally unfolded in front of our eyes. Young and simple as they are, there is a deep sense of self-conscious and considerable width of knowledge within them.
We are glad to show each one of them in this exhibition. It is from Zihan’s wise advise that we finally choose 「THere」as our exhibition theme, hoping to avoid misunderstanding that someone may misconceive and regard it as a studying abroad event. Meanwhile, I am also trying to avoid using my personal observation and curiosity to simply label them as an overseas student. Therefore, more importantly, we are about to hold one or two collective discussions during the exhibition in order to show these young artist’s works and their perspectives on the reality. We are looking forward to their performance and your participation.
“Breathe——how an organic body exchanges air with the outside world.”
It was in an afternoon of early May when my studio mate Siyu firstly brought up the definition of “breath”. It seemed to be a day like every other day. Two weeks later, Celine proposed this idea of a group show——an exhibition focusing on young artists who had recently finished studying abroad. “How do you create? What’s your concern? How do you live your every day here?” These were the questions only to begin with.
Celine, OuMing and I began our studio visit tour and it happened to be on the Children’s day. We rounded up in my own studio where I shared with Siyu. Everything we’ve experienced in those two days, every artist we’ve visited and every conversation we’ve had started coming back to me, something just like a deep and thorough breath.
Ma Jing has lived in the UK for more than ten years before moving back to Shanghai. She has a beautifully elegant GoldenRetriever, a good listener of our painting conversation. Ma Jing loves travelling. The fleeting view on the way will eventually rework themselves into flying brush strokes on the canvas, where she continuously revisits her impression through repetitious painting gesture. Wang Xiaofu lives on the top floor in an old city condo. On her working table, there are three fresh bouquets from a sender unknown. Behind them hangs a freshly finished painting; it’s full of life, even more so than any piece of foliage in her house. Accompanied by an ambient-techno playlist, our chat was weaved by terms such as “truth is a hole”, “folding universe”, “capital” and “a nice day”.
Jia Hui, Wang Yuyu and Yang Yijia share a four-hundred square-meter flat in Songjiang. Whitewall, cement floor, high-ceiling cubicles, it was as if we were back at school. Jia Hui took the north room, where she described herself as “a god-like figure”——creating a universe with and for images, building up logic for poetics in the painting to flow. Wang Yuyu makes her performative sculpture in the adjacent room. Recently, she is into silicon sheets, jujube thorn and shaped wood. She wants to “live” with her sculptures, or if we may say, she has become one of them. Either hard-edged or soft, black, red or coloured flesh, these objects scatter in her space, waiting for yet another newborn. YangYijia occupies a space next to the entrance. She paints her dreams, some vivid and some obscure, an illusion of speed or sometimes a sense of temperature. There is light within her works, radiating through layers of organza to reach the viewers’ eyes. Yijia also operates a mini etching station in the studio for artist friends. A British Shorthair walked in with silent steps. The field shines bright outside the window, such a buoyant view would make you forgot that you were still in Shanghai.
ZhaoZhiliang lives in a studio apartment on Changshu street. The room has a vinyl flooring of pale wood pattern. Zhao has been making paper mache with flour and clay. Hands leaves mark on every inch of the sculpture. It has the face of a mirror, gently returning the viewers’ gaze into themselves. Yujian recently moved her house. Most of her “little things” are stored in a maker-space where she also goes to work. She used to dress up with her own LED accessories to gallery openings, art fairs or late night disco. She enjoys computer programming. She still remembers the moment when she first made her own LED lights to work. “These little jewels, they are quite lovely.”
We talked to Li Xindi on the phone. He lives in Beijing, working full time in an art museum. As an individual artist and a professional employee in the art world, he manages to keep both identities active, stepping back and forth, engaging with a critical point of view. In his work, two seemingly distinct roles were simultaneously reassembled when they collide into each other as signifiers of the system they belong. When we arrived in Chen Siyu and my place, her room was still bright under the evening sun. She paints the “magical moments” in her memory, trying to extend the impression and the emotion embed within. Last year she made a short animation with one-thousand sketches. They capture hands, leaves, marks, the sun and the winds. I am now seating at my own studio table, next door to her room. I’ve been practising portraits on the wall in front of me. I’ve never met these characters in my drawings, but somehow I miss them dearly. I decided to draw and paint time to figure out how to deal with this passing of time.
These artists have travelled their practice from “there” to “here”, from a place we called “foreign” to another that could as well be referred to as the “other”. when I look into every day——the way we live and create——how we are similar yet different brings profound excitements. For a duration unknown, we will keep travelling between the idea of the East and the West, the past and the future, the individual and the collective, perhaps simply between the idea of “me” and “you”. One feet in and one feet out, we shall keep pacing, running or pausing in between. Is it that we are measuring the gap between cultures, pondering the distance between paradoxes? Or is it that we are building our own mechanism of a deep breath——what might the world left us when it goes through our mind and body and passes by our everyday.
I hope this exhibition could be a place to gather our traces from here and there, a resting point before we set out for new creative destinations, either physical or conceptual. I doubt if there is one best way to present these stories right. They are as trivial as our everyday, special as such, undefinable, nevertheless determined. For where the words cannot reach, the works will speak for themselves.
—— Liang Zihan