OCAT Xi’an | Spring Exhibitions
Art today assumes somewhat different forms from those of a thousand, a hundred, or even just ten years ago. But while materials and technologies, or the specific details of subject matters change, the basic impulse which prompts artists to make fine works of art remains largely constant. This impulse is not easily put into words. Now more than ever before, the art world’s zeitgeist encourages the articulation of art in a language that has already become satirized as “artspeak”. In truth, most attempts to speak clearly of the impulses driving inspiration, process or concept are inferior to the intuitive understanding and insight that is imparted by direct visual experience of a well-conceived and executed work of art. Language is, perhaps, rather too precise, too rational – which is the problem with “artspeak” -- and great art is not an exact science. It requires a measure of ambiguity such that provides space for contemplation, room for interpretation and to accommodate the shifting shape of impressions over time. However, to speak of art in terms of pure visual experience or “essence” today feels somewhat out of step with the contemporary. Such language harks back to the quaint notion of artworks possessing an aura, a soul perhaps (as discussed by Walter Benjamin), and of the artist being akin to a seer or visionary. A kind of eccentric genius who channels powers of intuition and insight through their craft. Quaint it might be, but not without truth, and so perhaps, as the art world comes ever closer to becoming a well-oiled assembly production line, and as a dominant trend towards art devoid of those essential, if primitive, qualities threatens to become the norm., opinions just might change again.
In the meantime, this spring, OCAT Xi’an presents three solo exhibition projects which demonstrate what the power of intuition and visual experience, underscored by just the right amount of ambiguity, can achieve in art. In this case, in the work of Xi’an-based Qiu Ruixiang, and of Beijing-based emerging talents Chen Zhe and Dan’er. Each brings a unique perspective to the subjects and approaches they use, but they share a common ethos. Their art begins with impulse and instinct, and evolves through a process of looking and evoking, destroying, and starting over; repeating what doesn’t feel right, until it does. The three artists also share a forté for observing the world and their subject, after which they take all the time that is required to bring their ideas and concepts to fruition. The figures Qiu Ruixiang portrays in his paintings suggest human experience that ranges from humility to fear, form the ethereal to the sublime, habitually suffused in an ambiguous fog of darkness, of pigment and paint.
Foregrounding the awkwardness we are apt to experience in the face of ambiguity, Chen Zhe delves into the atmospheric sensations that are prompted by dusk, in the twilight moments before day becomes night, when for many people a liminal sense of being provokes unease, disquiet, even fear.
In the visual archive Good Cheer compiled by Dan’er, we find a study of how ordinary people experience visual language, explored through basic, common forms of folk arts that have evolved through time to inject a measure of comfort into very humble strata of quotidian life.
The inferences that underscore each of these three bodies of work are elemental, pagan even, but essentially human. This is basic human experiences evoked through art in the very best of aesthetic tradition that eludes language and has to be seen to be appreciated.
Spring exhibitions run from March 10 to May 27 2018.
OCAT Xi’an sincerely thank Platform China Contemporary Art Institute, Beijing, for support of Qiu Ruixiang’s exhibition; thanks also go to Wei Chaoye and Xie Wei for the loan of Qiu Ruixiang’s work; BANK/MABSOCIETY, Shanghai, and Xi’an Sanke Fitech Lighting, for support of Chen Zhe’s project; Wang Jiajun, for assistance with Dan’er’s project.