By Shen Shubin
In the year of 2005, I rented a studio in Huantie Art City around 798 Art District. The studio was surrounded by circuit railroads, located in the suburb of Beijing. It was a quiet and lovely place where the butterflies stretch their wings among the endless verdure of trees and grassland, and the willows along the road to the Art City would wave their tender branches, feeling for the air of spring; In February, lavender orchids spread out and weaved a floral blanket with intoxicating perfume, which built up an unique sense of art in the City. Art elements would male every corner of my studio shine with grandeur, giving me the earnest impression that I had found the Holy Land of Art. However, destruction pervaded, and the fate of the Art District was to end up with the rest of the City: Concrete pillars and iron monsters violently devoured the city; Lawns were dug out, aged trees were cut down and grasslands were transformed into polo courts. A sense of oppression and threat of rapid urbanization was questioning every artist’s heart with pain. Yet the worldly mass got acclimated to it and felt no pain at all. Gradually, the feeling of indifference, confusion, lostness and helplessness became a social sickness.
For me, the pain never disappeared from the depth of my heart and I have always been seeking for a relief. My series of works Lost is an attempt at doing so. People are empty, numb, perplexed and helpless, along with the skepticism and question of history, reality and culture, lost in modern cities just like “me”. Gradually, however, I find that many of the lost urbanites are also the active participants of urban construction, and real protagonists lie outside. Thus, my new series Heavenly Creation (Tian Gong Kai Wu) came to life.
Heavenly Creation presents a delicate scene in the form of landscape gardening. Traditional Chinese landscape serves as the spot where there are residues of destruction of nature on every piece of memory. Machinery, product of modern industrial civilization, like a transformed giant hand of human kind, carves everywhere on the Earth and leaves destructive and even irreversible scars, which are fatal to the nature and survival of human beings. Behind the convenience of modern life hides the plunder and destruction of natural resources, and cold facial expressions often conceal the greediness of mankind. I present my works in the form of landscape gardening, just because people have the habit to ponder their own self-behavior from others’ perspective of view. It also represents social apathy and bystander attitude that commonly exist today. When people get lost, they lose their independent judgment to external stimulus.
Landscape gardening also implies my attempt to bring this project to the big social stage. Condensed social landscape makes it easy for us to calmly survey, evaluate and reflect social problems, which is the main social value of art. It challenges us to introspect our self-behaviors on a daily basis. When people face a piece of art, their first impression would be green mountains and blue streams. These traditional landscape paintings are described as real scenery. However, they are not just simple hills and rivers. A landscape itself tends to incline toward tradition, culture and modern science. A portrait of running machines, like monsters, sabre rattling and greedily devouring nutrition, symbolizes the fact that products of modern industry were developed upon vicious plundering of nature.
By appreciating this work of art, a person can have a peek at all which happens in the real world, from the creator’s perspective of view, with a bystander identity, with an examining viewpoint. Anyone can totally put himself out of this complicated world, reorient himself towards the things around, and fit himself in as part of the art work. This builds up internal correlation between images and the real world. Connections with the environment, human creativity, relationship between mankind and nature and so on give us insight for reflection. In every scene, like a living theatre, the viewer is the leading role, where every viewer has its own role. In other words, an artist begins a piece of art, while a viewer completes it. The artworks’ possibility of participation enlarges their connotation and denotation, where different audiences have their respective ways of interpretation.
A distinctive aspect of my works is conflict. Mankind, as the master of social industrialization, has a profound impact on both nature and us, human beings. Our society is like a magic world, with fantasy comedy shows all the time. Conflicts exist at every corner of the real world; some are direct while some are indirect. Heavenly Creation is just the series of works which show the conflicts between man and nature as we are changing the world. Of course, these conflicts are hidden behind neat and beautiful scenery, which makes people feel that green hills and blue waters and the machines were naturally integrated. Yet, beyond all such beauty, we as subjects ought to be disillusioned, but must strive to find a proper way to change the world in conformity with the laws of nature.
Above all, art represents ideality!
About the exhibition
Curator: Roman Song
Duration: May 28 – July 12, 2014
Venue: Raab Galerie
Opening: May 27, 2014, 6pm-9pm
Gallery opening time: Monday- Friday 10am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm
Address: Fasanenstr. 72 in 10719 Berlin, Germany
Courtesy of the artist and Raab Galerie, for further information please visit www.raab-galerie.de.