“Liquid Truth”: Chinese artist Xue Mu at Yeo Workshop, Singapore – in pictures

“Liquid Truth” runs until 19 March 2017 at Yeo Workshop in Singapore.

Art Radar has a look at the second solo exhibition of the Chinese artist in Singapore, which takes among its points of departure the classical sculptures of Michelangelo and Rodin.

Xue Mu, "Liquid Truth", 10 January - 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, “Liquid Truth”, 10 January – 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

There is a precarious balance that is struck by artists in their practice, one, which to some extent, may well have dogged them since the day Ug skived off to knap pretty patterns on a rock, rather than coming to grips with the sensible business of making useful tools. In acknowledging what has come before, each artist finds a point between repudiating it in whole, or doggedly maintaining that same tradition. Leaning towards the side of critical engagement is Xue Mu’s second solo exhibition in Singapore, entitled “Liquid Truth” on display at Yeo Workshop from 10 January to 19 March 2017.

Xue Mu, "Liquid Truth", 10 January - 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, “Liquid Truth”, 10 January – 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, 'Liquid Truth_Two Davids', 2016, archival pigment print, 80 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Liquid Truth_Two Davids’, 2016, archival pigment print, 80 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

The two major points of departure for the exhibition are amongst the most recognisable sculptures around – Michelangelo’s David and Rodin’s Thinker. Through their sheer stature – in a literal, physical sense as well as the influence they exert in art history – these two sculptures appear to stand in, in Mu’s estimation, for the valorisation of the masculine in sculpture. In so doing, however, the artist simultaneously touches on an artistic canon, which owes much to the European tradition – a prickly notion in an increasingly multi-polar world.

Xue Mu, "Liquid Truth", 10 January - 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, “Liquid Truth”, 10 January – 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Installation view with ‘Liquid Truth_Curtain’, 2016, pigment printed textile, 520 x 250 cm. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Much of the exhibition is given over to Mu’s re-photographing of these iconic sculptures, subjecting them to a variety of physical distortions and abstractions, breaking up their heroic forms in a fairly literal manner. For instance, the first work, just a few feet past the entrance, is Mu’s Liquid Truth_Curtain (2016), on which is printed a distorted image of Michelangelo’s David, its height approximately halved. As the curtain ripples and wafts in the gallery’s minute currents of air, there comes a thought that there might be some precise conjunction of perspective and the curtain’s ripples that might permit an undistorted view of the sculpture, but such an effort seems largely futile.

Xue Mu, 'Liquid Truth_Thinker', 2016, archival pigment print, 80 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Liquid Truth_Thinker’, 2016, archival pigment print, 80 x 60 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, 'Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 1', 2016, archival pigment print, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 1’, 2016, archival pigment print, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Mu’s approach to Rodin’s Thinker is a little more on the nose. Liquid Truth_Thinker (2016) is a lavishly detailed photograph of a photograph of the sculpture that has been crumpled and smoothed out enough to permit identification, while Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 1 (2016) presents the same, crumpled. The artist goes one step further, however, with Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 2 (2016), a photograph of a copy of the former artwork, crumpled, thus adding a layer of iteration, representational distance and abstraction to the proceedings.

If her use of imposing statuary recalls Percy Shelley’s poem Ozymandias, her interventions and engagements would take the place of the pitiless march of entropy, which no grandiloquent pronouncement of significance can endure.

Xue Mu, 'Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 2', 2016, archival pigment print, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Liquid Truth_Thinkers Crumpled 2’, 2016, archival pigment print, 90 x 90 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, 'Liquid Truth_Paper No. 1', 2016, archival pigment print, 240 x 154 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Liquid Truth_Paper No.1’, 2016, archival pigment print, 240 x 154 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

More abstract, or indirect, is Liquid Truth_Paper_No.1 (2016), which like the Thinker series of images, employs the distortion and deformation of paper. Here, however, there is no image to be defaced, with only the warping of the paper (presumably by water) to be perceived, its peaks and troughs amplified in the large-scale photographic print, evoking a landscape through the interaction of water and paper fibres.

Xue Mu, "Liquid Truth", 10 January - 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, “Liquid Truth”, 10 January – 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, 'Black Diamond 3_Space_Garden', 2016, charcoal on paper, 194 x 176 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, ‘Black Diamond 3_Space_Garden’, 2016, charcoal on paper, 194 x 176 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Yeo Workshop.

This sense of materiality and serendipity extends also to another work, IN.NO.SENSE_Stone (2015), which is one of a smattering of works in the exhibition that are not strictly part of the “Liquid Truth” series, offering, then, some amount of context of the artist’s practice. While IN.NO.SENSE_Stone could be appreciated in purely formal terms, it is especially evocative when the artist relates the story behind it – an abandoned lithographic stone, worn beyond the point of usability, which accidentally fell and split open when being moved. Where once there was an object whose function relied on its material characteristics, those same characteristics, by chance, led to its (nailed down, so to speak, by the artist’s practice of re-photographing) translation to an aesthetic context.

Xue Mu, "Liquid Truth", 10 January - 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Xue Mu, “Liquid Truth”, 10 January – 19 March 2017, Yeo Workshop, Singapore. Image courtesy Yeo Workshop.

Further context concerning the umbrella project of IN.NO.SENSE (a curious rebracketing of the term “innocence”), as well as Mu’s practice as a whole, is helpfully supplied by some of the artist’s publications, which are displayed nearby. A different sort of exploration of the ideas which intrigue her is also available: the video projection Mirror Tower (2016), which the artist describes as a trailer of sorts for her ongoing research, linking spiral structures and towers with a history of thought, with something of a debt to Adam Curtis’ arresting documentary, The Century of the Self.

Bruce Quek

1536

Related Topics: Chinese, photography, charcoalgallery shows, Singapore events

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