Installation detail "Pictorial DNA made in China", 2005

Installation detail "Pictorial DNA made in China", 2005
left: Li Songsong: Bazooka, 2005
oil on canvas, 210 x 170 cm
right: Xie Nanxing: untitled (No. 2), 2004
oil on canvas, 220 x 324 cm

Pictorial DNA made in China

Ding Yi
, Li Songsong, Li Yongbin, Liu Wei, Meng Huang, Qiu Shihua, Wang Xingwei, Xie Nanxing, Yan Lei

Due to a cultural/philosophical tradition based on the representation of the world by means of images, throughout the whole art history of China painting has always held a weighty position among the visual arts, so much as to become, since its invention, even a fundamental part of the written language (see the Chinese ideograms).

Already completely free from the copy of the models set by the Chinese classical masters, from the acquisition of technical and theoretical knowledge about Western art, from the imposition of an iconography in the style of Social Realism, from open contrasts with the government politics and from the need to react to them, with the second half of the Nineties the Chinese contemporary art scene has experienced the progressive, almost complete break-up of all the art groups and the end of the pictorial currents.

The unprecedented linguistic differentiation which followed has led to very individual and sometimes outstanding positions as in the case of the nine artists taking part in the exhibition "Pictorial DNA made in China" (curated by Nataline Colonnello and Urs Meile), who were selected according to the conceptual solidity, masterly skill, experimental unconventionality and stylistic distinctiveness hallmarking their high quality paintings like a genetic code.

With two new installations to be displayed in a dark room, Ding Yi (1962, Shanghai) makes his distinguishing pattern of crosses exceed the bi-dimensionality of the canvas. Realized with luminescent acrylic paint on canvas and on various transparent plastic sheets superimposed one upon another, the surface of the works appears completely white when exposed to light for some seconds. Once the lamps are turned off by the action of a timer, a forest of bright crosses appears on the surface of the works, recalling 3D aerial views of a metropolitan night.

As a source material for his paintings, Li Songsong (1973, Beijing) resorts to famous images dealing with social and political events which occurred in China during the last century. The portrayed scenes, of which the artist has neither direct experience nor historical memory, often include huge crowds of people and famous personalities (like Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Tito, etc.). Once enlarged on his canvasses and depicted in a quite expressionist/abstract way through incredibly thick coats of paint, the identity or the role of the subjects can only be grasped from previous knowledge. The artist's target is not to reproduce a specific fact that happened in the past but on the one hand to let the general aura connected with it emerge and on the other, to objectively collect his own ideas and therefore find his own position in the contemporary world. (The subdivision of the space into rectangular, differently coloured areas clearly shows this psychological (re)structuring intent).

Known to the international art scene not only as a painter but also as a video artist, Li Yongbin (1963, Beijing) mainly focuses his attention on the topics of movement, the passing of time and self-identification. In the lonely, sensitive and sometimes tense atmosphere in which his works are wrapped, the artist always shows a close-up of his own face (all his videos and paintings are called "Face"), and this because it is conceived as an instrument of knowledge. In the b/w airbrush painting featured in this exhibition, Li crystallizes the motion of turning (or shaking) his head so that the facial features appear blurred, unrecognizable and estranging.

Unceasingly modified until the very last minute, as is his habit, through the stratification and simultaneous employment of different techniques, the latest work by Liu Wei (1965, Beijing) was subject to a creative-destructive process which hints at the cycle of birth and death. The wild strokes in white acrylic paint covering the upper part of the verdant rural landscape give the impression of a "lactescent" sky about to break out in a thick devastating (or inseminating) storm.

Rich in literary and philosophical references (see Goethe, Holderlin, Heidegger, Gadamer, Jung, Baudelaire, Milton, Orwell, etc.), the works of Meng Huang (1966, Beijing) are unmistakable with the exquisite balance of strength and fineness, anger and peacefulness, wistfulness and poetry that permeates them. Meng Huang' s dark landscapes are like whispered meditations on an inner malaise, illustrated pages of a personal diary filled with memories of countryside and industrial scenes contemplated by the artist during his solitary trips and the long years he spent in the Henan Province.

At first sight looking like immaculate canvases, the white landscapes of Qiu Shihua (1944, Sichuan Province) need time to reveal, step by step, the complexity of the composition, the excellent technique, the colour hues and the gentle power by which they are characterized. Produced in his studio, where the artist lives in seclusion, Qiu's works portray natural landscapes inundated by sunlight filtering through mist or snow. Inspired by Daoist philosophy, these paintings are flights, evolutions of the artist' s spirit in a superior level of conscience where his vital energy (qi) joins the harmony of the Universe.

Sharp, humorous, and many-sided, Wang Xingwei (1969, Shenyang, Liaoning province) is always able to surprise the viewer with his bright inspirations. According to his needs, Wang shifts from one technique to another, from one support to another with incomparable dexterity and precision. If on the one hand Wang makes use of elements belonging to different cultural and sub-cultural sources (art history, politics, as well as street advertisements, Japanese erotic prints, etc.), on the other he operates his decontextualizations and re-arrangements of meaning through puzzling characters taking on an unfathomable symbolism, as it is in the case of his pandas, penguins and air hostesses.

Xie Nanxing' s mesmerizing "psychological painting", with its almost abstract photorealism, triggers and ruffles the viewer's unconscious recollections with astounding magnetism and efficaciousness. Out of his very limited annual production, which generally includes only big or huge sized canvases, Xie (1970, Chongqing) participates in this show with a work belonging to his latest series and dealing with the topic of death. The painting, in which the subject is barely recognizable at first sight, represents a spectacular close-up of a dead rooster with open wings.

Highly conceptual, the acrylic paintings of Yan Lei (1965, Hebei Province) are generated through an elaborate digital and pictorial process in which a strict mathematic approach is associated with the pure artistic creation. Rigorously linked to Yan' s personal life experience, his works cover such questions as power relations, private and public space, inner and external life. From his prolific output, Yan Lei presents a work of his latest series of Buddhas: an ecstatic but at the same time hallucinating chilly vision that, reminiscent of a cathartic thrust, can also call to mind an escape from reality.

Co-curated Nataline Colonnello

Exhibition: 4 June - 14 July, 2005
Gallery hours: Tues-Fri 10 - noon, 2 - 7 pm, Sat 2 - 4 pm

Galerie Urs Meile
Rosenberghöhe 4a
6004 Luzern
Telephone +41 (0)41 420 33 18
Fax +41 (0)41 420 21 69

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