“She’s Already Gone”: Yu Hong’s virtual reality art at Faurschou Foundation, Beijing

The Chinese artist brings her painterly world to (virtual) reality at the Faurschou Foundation in Beijing.

Art Radar takes a look at the exhibition, which is part of a spotlight series on virtual reality art.

Yu Hong, 'She’s Already Gone', 2017, Virtual Reality artwork ©Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary

Yu Hong, ‘She’s Already Gone’, 2017, Virtual Reality artwork. © Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary.

Premiering at the Faurschou Foundation Beijing, She’s Already Gone is the contemporary Chinese artist Yu Hong’s immersive, almost surreal installation work. Consisting of four scenes, her latest work brings viewers on a journey through the life of a female character from birth to old age. Yu Hong’s art combines aspects of theatre, story-telling and visual art, experimenting with the immense potential of virtual reality technologies to create new worlds.

Beginning in a modern day hospital, viewers are casual onlookers to multiple periods of the character’s life. As we witness Yu Hong’s fictional character move through life, growing up into an adult, and eventually, an elderly woman, the hands of time seem to move backwards instead. The viewer eventually winds up amongst a shamanistic ritual, which is said to appear in the earliest known period of Chinese history. Amidst these scenes unfolds a narrative surrounding the central character, in what reads almost as a coming-of-age story.

Yu Hong, 'She’s Already Gone', 2017, Virtual Reality artwork ©Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary

Yu Hong, ‘She’s Already Gone’, 2017, Virtual Reality artwork. © Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary.

She’s Already Gone, which runs until 3 February 2018 at the Faurschou Foundation, highlights the latest emergent genre of art: virtual reality art. Virtual reality art has not gone unremarked; artists such as fellow Chinese contemporary Cao Fei experimented with the medium by creating a virtual reality environment involving the BMW M6 GT3. New Museum also recently launched an online-only exhibition, “First look: Artists’ VR” that touts itself as a new virtual reality exhibition, featuring six commissioned works. Other heavyweight names such as Olafur Eliasson and Jeff Koons have also debuted their own virtual reality experiments.

The ability to bend time and reality notwithstanding, Yu Hong’s installation features hand-painted scenes. Lauded as being “among the most highly-regarded figurative painters” and “widely celebrated for her intimate, unpretentious, and highly tactile work”, Yu Hong is better known as one of China’s best painters. Her career has spanned over three decades. Marked by a feminist bent, her works often explore the experience of contemporary Chinese women. Often linked to her own personal life and experiences, Yu Hong’s art has also stood out for its emotional focus and expression of the complicated realities of women in rapidly changing China. Best known for her for her inclusion in the landmark “New-Generation Art Exhibition” at the Chinese History Museum, Beijing.

Yu Hong, sketches for 'She’s Already Gone' 2017, acrylic on paper.

Yu Hong, sketches for ‘She’s Already Gone’, 2017, acrylic on paper. Image courtesy the artist..

The new installation at Faurschou Foundation combines the more traditional means of painting with new visual technologies, signalling a move towards updating the painting genre. The installation opens up the potential that virtual reality holds for painting: instead of being restricted to the boundaries of a frame and wall, painting is now immersive and all-engulfing; scales, planes and perspectives are different. The way viewers see painting is different too; viewers have to put on goggles, tapping into technology to access their experience rather than trusting their own eyes.

For Yu Hong, She’s Already Gone adds another layer to the personal, intimate and quotidian style of painting that she engenders. Scenes such as the bedroom gain a new proximity to the viewer; we see a girl quietly sitting on the edge of a window in a corner far from us, her face shrouded in sunlight. Distance gains new meaning in virtual reality art, encouraging us to relate to her painting in different ways. Yu Hong’s “realism”, it seems, is now reality.

Yu Hong, 'She’s Already Gone', 2017, Virtual Reality artwork ©Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary

Yu Hong, ‘She’s Already Gone’, 2017, Virtual Reality artwork. © Yu Hong and Khora Contemporary. Image courtesy the artist and Khora Contemporary.

Her exhibition at Faurschou Foundation Beijing comes as the fifth in a series of virtual reality art exhibitions. As Jens Faurschou, curator of the exhibition series noted,

Civilizations evolve by exploring new ways of expression […]. Today, virtual reality is one of the most interesting new mediums, as it combines, in itself, all the previous forms of artistic expression, while adding multiple new dimensions to how it can be done.

Defined as the “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with […] by a person using special electronic equipment”, Faurschou’s curated series featured, besides Yu Hong, international artists Christian Lemmerz, Erik Parker, Paul McCarthy and Tony Oursler. Adding that it is “amazing how many more opportunities virtual reality creates in terms of what the artist can do, and how the artwork can be accessed and experienced by the viewer”, the series showed impressive, large-scale VR works by each artist for a month-long period at a time. Most of the works immerse viewers in surreal environments, and are coupled with intriguing storylines. From Erik Parker’s psychedelic, colorful universe to Paul McCarthy’s mind-bending film, the projects have capitalised on technology’s ability to make anything happen. Many of the artists were also featured as part of the exhibition “New Media (Virtual Reality)” at Foundazione Cini as part of the 57th Venice Biennale, which the Foundation staged alongside collaborators Khora Contemporary.

The Faurschou Foundation is a privately owned contemporary art institution that occupies spaces in Copenhagen North Harbour, as well as Beijing. Since it’s inception, the Foundation has staged exhibitions of artists such as Cai Guo-Qiang, Louise Bourgeois and Shirin Neshat, to name a few.

Junni Chen

2044

‘She’s Already Gone’ by Yu Hong is on view from 6 January to 3 February 2018 at Faurschou Foundation Beijing, 798 Art District, NO. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, P.O.Box 8502, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China 100015.

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