From March 22 through to July 21, 2014, a group exhibition entitled “About Painting” is open to the public at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal in Xi’an (OCAT Xi’an).

Is painting an outmoded medium? Are today’s painters simply reinventing the wheel? Through the work of six established, mid-career painters – Jia Aili, Wang Yin, Zhao Gang, Duan Jianyu, Li Shurui and Qiu Ruixiang — About Painting examines the force and life of a medium that remains a fundamental form of human expression.

Different from the concern of OCAT Shenzhen on international exhibitions of art and exchanges, OCAT Xi’an which officially opened by the end of 2013 is committed to rendering and promoting contemporary Chinese art with international standards while supporting a variety of projects of cultural communication based in Xi’an. “About Painting” is the second exhibition curated by Ms. Karen Smith, Director of OCAT Xi’an, from “Between Character and Calligraphy” at the end of 2013 to “About Painting” in early Spring of 2014, she hopes to bring more contemporary art with clues and narration close to the local audience, to this famous cultural city with a long history of art along with a comparative concern for contemporary art.

What is painting today? It is a medium said to have died several times over in the last 170-odd years since the remark was first made by a painter confronted with the new invention of photography. Painting today comes in many guises, but a painting is the result of an arrangement of elements, essential components of the world the painter seeks to represent. This world forms a reality that belongs to the individual painter alone. Despite all the shifts in emphasis that have occurred in the style and practice of painting in the last 170-odd years, and all the theories that have been constructed to define its recent evolutionary phases and the anti-aesthetic practices that artists have developed in attempts to reinvent this medium (Bad Painting as one example), artists continue to produce great paintings: paintings that are considered to be “great” because they project a magical web of attraction that works on the viewer’s emotions as much as their eye, defying logic and the rational mind as they do so.

The works by these six artists with their separate video interviews are distributed in six relatively independent spaces on the three floors of the art space. Each of them has utilized their individualistic language to create their own style, they present their narrative, individual experience and broader view of the world in different ways. When speaking of “About Painting”, each of them has a different interpretation: Zhao Gang has brought his large-scale abstract works to this exhibition, conveying his opinion that “the essence of painting is very original” with “carnival” colors and atmosphere; Duan Jianyu has embedded her work with her in-depth thinking on reality, on art and painting, as she has thought “painting nice things is kind of a rest and decadence?” These seemingly rustic scenic works embody realistic symbolism and irony; when talking about his painting, Wang Yin frankly admitted that he was deeply influenced by paintings from the Soviet Union, thinking about painting for him was a foreign language, but he paid special attention to establishing an aesthetic experience between his painting and his form of sense. With sincerely delicate strokes, he continued with his exploration into forms of painting; Qiu Ruixiang is a restrained and persistent painter, when it comes to painting, he honestly confessed that, “painting is still very important, at least in my life…painting is the closest thing to my mind.”Among his images of great tension, solemn figures revealed a massive sense of history which is so thought-provoking in today’s impetuous world, how to adhere to painting? What kind of spiritual strength will paintings bring to us? : Jia Aili supplied nearly twenty works and related documentary occupying the ground floor. His works show great attention to the current political and technological issues, emphasizing peoples’ mental and independent wills, as he described “painting is a kind of exploration, which should not be trapped in the predicament of art history, instead it should be a spiritual transcendence.”; Li Shurui showcased her “An Invited View” with “light and space”, breaking the limitations of painting. She created on the walls and glass doors in the second floor gallery. It initiated the sensitivity of the audience to her work, inviting them to face the force of painting. Invariably, their paintings expressed a range of emotions, whether they are serious, chaotic, misty, or humorous, they excavated the nature of painting materials with their unique styles.

History demonstrates that as long as there are new circumstances and social experiences in the world, there will be subjects for painters to unravel on canvas. This is ultimately seen to best effect in what these six artists do as painting.

About the exhibition

Duration: March 22 — July 21, 2014

Exhibition Opening: Saturday March 22, 2:00-5:00pm

Venue: OCAT Xi’an

Address: OCAT Xi’an, Beichitou 1st Road, Yanta District, Xi’an

Telephone: 029-85529730

Email: ocat-xian@ocat.org.cn

Opening Hours: 10:00-17:00, Tuesday to Sunday (last entries 16:30)

Courtesy of the artists and OCAT Xi’an, for further information please visit www.ocat.org.cn.

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