“Inexplicable”: 18 young Chinese artists at Pearl Lam Galleries, Shanghai

Featuring 18 young Chinese artists, the exhibition explores contemporary creative practice in China.

Drawing form a range of contemporary as well as traditional references, the exhibition demonstrates the diversity of young artists in today’s China.

Wang Ji, Greedy201603001, 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 78.5 x 108.5 cm (31x 42 3/4 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Wang Ji, ‘Greedy201603001’, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 78.5 x 108.5 cm (31x 42 3/4 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

From 17 June to 27 August 2017, Pearl Lam Gallery in Shanghai hosts “Inexplicable”, a group exhibition featuring 18 young Chinese artists. The show explores the varied practices of millennial artists and the society that influences them. Drawing from traditional as well as contemporary cultural references, the exhibition combines a range of influences such as social media, fiction and movies, magazines and daily life in a globalised world.

Cai Zebin, 'Lost Favor', 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Cai Zebin, ‘Lost Favor’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

The artists include:

  • Cai Zebin
  • Dai Chenlian
  • Ju Anqi
  • Liang Ban
  • Liu Mengxing
  • Pan Jianfeng
  • Shi Yiran
  • Song Chen
  • Tang Bohua
  • Tao Yi
  • Wang Ji
  • Wu Di
  • Xia Qingyong
  • Xu Dawei
  • Xu Xinwu
  • Yan Heng
  • Zheng Lu
  • Zhong Yunshu
Pan Jianfeng, 'Guaranteed Fresh 02', 2017, ink on paper, 34 x 45 cm (framed), 35 x 35 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Pan Jianfeng, ‘Guaranteed Fresh 02’, 2017, ink on paper, 34 x 45 cm (framed), 35 x 35 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

Pearl Lam Galleries’s Director explained that there are many challenges facing emerging Chinese artists:

I saw more struggles than trends. Social criticism is turning into individual spiritual experience, while symbolism is turning into pure vision. Tradition has been developed ideally and methodologically.

Liu Mengxing, 'From A4 paper to object-No.4', 2015, Newspaper collage on canvas, 50 x 60 cm (19 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Liu Mengxing, ‘From A4 paper to object-No.4’, 2015, newspaper collage on canvas, 50 x 60 cm (19 5/8 x 23 5/8 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

The artists are influenced by contemporary society, each creating their own point of view. Cai Zebin (b. 1988), Liang Ban (b. 1985), Liu Mengxing (b. 1990) and Pan Jianfeng (b. 1973) each use a dark sense of humour, manipulating the roles of people and objects, and exploring the relationship between the two. The works look at reactions when people are objectified, questioning daily life in society and consumer habits.

Ju Anqi, 'Grass Style No.16090', 2016, Acrylic on Canvas, 200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Ju Anqi, ‘Grass Style No.16090’, 2016, acrylic on Canvas, 200 x 150 cm (78 3/4 x 59 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

The paintings of Ju Anqi (b. 1975), Tao Yi (b. 1978) and Wang Ji (b. 1988) use abstraction as a way of examining symbolism in our culture. Ju Anqi creates grass painting using this grass script to reach back into ancient times, as grass is something that is durable and survives in spite of the many social and cultural changes. Tao Yi uses the shape of diamonds to refer to light in early civilizations, as well as the more contemporary decorative, and more ornamental, functions.

Tao Yi, 'Sunrise on the Nile 12', 2016-2017, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 40 cm (21 1/4 x 15 3/4 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Tao Yi, ‘Sunrise on the Nile 12’, 2016-2017, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 40 cm (21 1/4 x 15 3/4 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

Young artists also draw from film and literature in their work, reinterpreting older texts in a more contemporary context. Dai Chenlian (b. 1982) and Shi Yiran (b. 1983) both use this strategy, drawing from a classical Chinese ghost story from the Tang Dynasty and the more contemporary Dogville and Peacock films. Through these cultural artefacts they explore the facets of humanity.

Yan Heng, 'Reflection', 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 200 cm (39 3/8 x 78 3/4 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Yan Heng, ‘Reflection’, 2011, oil on canvas, 100 x 200 cm (39 3/8 x 78 3/4 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

Wu Di (b. 1979) and Yan Heng (b. 1982) investigate the power of images through collages and mixed media, combining classical motifs and pop culture. Yan Heng uses irony in his paintings, taking subjects from daily life, emotions and his personal experience of living in a digital and consumerist world. He examines the objects in his life, bringing in aspects of the mechanical such as computer parts, fans or refrigerators. Through these transient objects that have a short shelf life, Yan Heng criticises the digital world in which experiences are replaced by digital devices. This fascination with the mechanical was in part influenced by growing up in an industrial town in the northwest of China, and he now uses several materials that were common in those factories.

Tang Bohua, 'The Country of Summer Insects', 2013, Animation Film, 16’30’’. Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Tang Bohua, ‘The Country of Summer Insects’, 2013, animation film, 16min:30sec. Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

While many young artists explore new media, others reach back to the origins of their traditions. Tang Bohua (b. 1986) for example was influenced by stories and imagery from Taoist temples from an early age, and these early seeds have worked their way into his creative practice. He was inspired by a statement from Daoist teachings Zhuangzi, which formed the basis of his work on display at the exhibition. He explains to SinArts Space (PDF download):

I’ve always had a passion for animation, but it was not my major. I liked painting and I studied printmaking at the Academy of Art in Hangzhou. The Country of Summer Insects has been my first experience as an author and director…the aesthetic is closer to old paintings.

In fact, this work is constructed from images created in the old style of fresco paintings on a total of 10,000 plasterboards. These plasterboards were scanned and edited into a film. He explains that “the process was long and delicate, sometimes the boards cracked”, but he persisted in order to maintain the impression of an older aesthetic within a modern format. Through this process, Tang connects millennia old Chinese traditions to the present.

Zheng Lu, 'Shore', 2017, Stainless steel, 150 x 150 x 160 cm (59 x 59 x 63 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery,

Zheng Lu, ‘Shore’, 2017, stainless steel, 150 x 150 x 160 cm (59 x 59 x 63 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

The two installations are from artists Song Chen (b. 1979) and Zhong Yunshu (b. 1990) who create site-specific works that extend the gallery space. Song Chen is known for creating installations using earth, while Zhong Yunshu focuses on the relationship between different materials.

Xu Xinwu, 'Reliance', 2014, Acrylic and Oil on canvas, 180 x 200 cm (70 7/8 x 78 3/4 in.). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Gallery.

Xu Xinwu, ‘Reliance’, 2014, acrylic and oil on canvas, 180 x 200 cm (70 7/8 x 78 3/4 in). Image courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.

The other artists study aspects of nature, such as Xia Qingyong’s (b. 1988) abstract landscapes or Zheng Lu’s (b. 1978) combination of Chinese calligraphy and splashing water, frozen in time, in his steel sculpture. Xu Dawei (b. 1980) and Xu Xinwu (b. 1984) also explore the nature of energy fields in the universe, a concept derived from ancient Chinese philosophy.

Claire Wilson

1733

Related topics: Chinese artists, painting, installation, gallery shows, photography, video, events in Shanghai

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