Gallery: Art Supermarket
Opening / Event Date: 21 Nov, 2019
Closing / End Date: 20 Jun, 2020
Tang Contemporary Art is proud to present “White”, an exhibition of artists Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun, curated by Cui Cancan, at its Hong Kong gallery. The four works presented in this exhibition, Temporary Home No. 14150522, Daily Behavior Nos. 1-15, Derivative – White and Borrowed Land 9.72 Square Meters, use a wide array of materials including acrylic, wood, wool carpets and light boxes, to create a varied sensory experience, while also utilizing negative space and simplified forms to produce a tranquil, contemplative space.
Shanghai-based brothers Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun create both as individuals and as a team. Their work explores individual life, geography, space and time – often marked by a particular set of characteristics.
In this exhibition, the two artists continue in their minimalist approach, employing white and the constrained use of other colors to reserved, temperate effect. The minimal appearance of these images draw the viewer’s focus toward the spiritual expression of the artworks, while their refined form evokes profound visual imagination regarding “themes of identity and nostalgia, blankness and memory” (Cui Cancan).
The gallery looks forward to presenting these works in their Hong Kong space, and to engaging the city with new forms of dialogue.
── by Cui Cancan
Over a decade later, as people looked back on July 1, 1997, perhaps they remembered the heavy rains, or some other small detail, but they would have had trouble describing exactly how they felt. It was all so empty. There was no sense of that great shifting tide you would imagine, nor that solemn feel of bearing witness to a great moment in history.
Memories can be submerged, but they never disappear entirely. They sink deep in our nostalgia, flowing in our veins until they become our gazes, our actions, nameless, shapeless, inseparable parts of ourselves. Then, at a particular point in time, an utterance, a line of poetry or a fragmented image emerges from memory and gradually takes form.
In Asia, there is no place more suited to the discussion on the diversity and hybridity of “identity” than Hong Kong. After hundreds of years of colonial cultural history, it is still seeking a new order. People need a sense of continuity, to share a past, and to share their yearning for a future order. This fleeting sentiment has been bestowed with a greater historical framework.
Temporary Home, created in 2014, depicts a tattered interior scene, in which yellowed wallpaper, white leather chairs and empty painting frames extend across mottled floor tiles. In the exhibition space, it serves as a metaphor for the universal space in which people exist. Thus begins the exhibition. The large work Daily Behavior, spread across the ground, is like a blank archaeological site that simplifies real life into an abstract sign, while also revealing the time and repetition needed for the act of painting.
The structural white twists and turns, and the simplified, abstract forms of Daily Behavior and Derivative-White push the imagery of the exhibition into a different state. What will emerge from this visual line of questioning, once it has transcended the circumstances of reality, and been stripped of specific place, everyday things and clear direction? Where does its spirit lead? The unfurling carpet brings our line of sight back to those indescribable thoughts that allude to real events in memory, back to a constant “on-the-ground exploration”, to the complex and confused dimensions of reality.
At this moment, in a photograph on the wall, a person who has just stepped onto the carpet, in white pants and old-style white leather shoes, leaves behind an image of absence. We cannot guess what the identity and nostalgia outlined by the artist, the themes of blankness and memory, will say about who this person is, where he is from, and what he has experienced. One must replay their experiences and look to past knowledge to distinguish and imagine it.
When this exhibition opens in Hong Kong, it engages in a dialogue with the city across time and space. The Hong Kong at this time is filled with a colonial air, with the old Luk Kwok Hotel clearly visible, the island crawling with bankers, the old Bank of China building standing above. Across the bay, one can see the patchwork that is Chungking Mansion, the glimmering neon lights of Mong Kok, the long-disappeared villages of Kowloon, and the Shenzhen River that winds between Hong Kong and the mainland, across which a million Chinese immigrants once swam. This city, swarming with missionaries and vagrants, is at this point, more than any other time, a place seeming to possess no past or future.
Chen Yufan and Chen Yujun exhibited their Mulan River Project in Beijing in 2011, marking the first time the brothers carried out an artistic creation directed at the cultural history of their hometown. The Mulan River is the river that feeds their old home in Fujian, and the wellspring through which they trace their memories and individual experiences. The Mulan River Project drifted across the seas, crossing from Shanghai and Hangzhou onto Berlin and Leipzig, carrying the artists’ imaginings of identity and history in its currents.
Now, it flows to Hong Kong, becoming a temporary part of this city in the form of the exhibition White. Beginning in Putian, Fujian Province, it has taken on many forms as it has emerged in exhibitions in various cities, taking on mixed information signals, before arriving in Hong Kong, an Asian hub reappraising its identity. The past and current reality of this city will bestow the exhibition with a new background and new meaning, opening up new possibilities while providing audiences with more to ponder and imagine.
By the time the memories reemerge, the people have set out on a completely new life. This is not just because they have reshaped themselves, but because from that point on, everything they encounter takes on a different meaning.