At 4:30 pm on March 16, 2018, the second exhibition of CAI Young Artist Laboratory, hosted by CAFA ART INFO, was held at Beijing Feefan’s Art. Zhang Yanzi, Executive Editor-in-Chief of CAFA ART INFO serves as the Exhibition Director, Zhu Li, Editor of the Chinese version serves as the curator of the exhibition and it is greatly supported by Feefan’s Art. In a “topic research” approach, the exhibition further explores the spirit and expression of contemporary artists. The first round themed on “Self-knowledge” is extended to the broader concept of “All Things”. The three young artists Mi Jie, Sun Yitian and Yan Laichao present their observations and reflections on “objects” from their individual perspective. The complicated relationship between “men and objects” was presented in front of the audience through various explorative methods, offering the viewer different opportunities to be involved in the experience.

Fan Di’an, Dean of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, attended the opening ceremony. He delivered a speech and said that, it was the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, “in the background of new cultural interaction and collision, how does Chinese contemporary art develop?” Standing in the new cultural foundation within the social and cultural environment, and the relationship between China and the world that are constantly changing, “what does the art do today, what can the art do, and what should the art do?” Fan Di’an then stated that, based on absorbing Western experiences and methods, learning the dynamics of the international art scene, “continuing to maintain the cultural value of China, paying more attention to and respecting their own growth experiences, life experiences and feelings in various aspects” so young Chinese artists are then able to reach an autonomous & free state when they are exploring. Later, Fan Di’an spoke highly of the topic of the exhibition “Detachment”, and cited the traditional Chinese methodology of “studying the nature of things” to briefly elaborate on the scope and perspective of the artists’ observation and performance of things—that is, in the world and beyond the concrete world.

In addition, Prof. Yin Ji’nan, Dean of the School of Humanities at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Ma Gang, Director of the Thematic Arts Creation and Research Center in China and an artist,  Feng Haitao, Deputy Dean of the Institute of Continuing Education, artist Wang Guangyi, and Sheng Wei, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Fine Arts magazine attended the opening ceremony.

Curator Zhu Li said that, under the theme of “objects”, the exhibition presented the artist’s touch and gaze on abstract and concrete “objects”. Faced with a complicated relationship between objects, objects and men, objects and the world, the three artists present their different observation modes and interpretive techniques on the same theme, “although they are observing objects, depicting things, it is actually beyond the ‘object’ itself”. As curator Zhu Li said, the term of “detachment” refers both to “beyond the secular” and “reaching the absolute realm”, which is extremely consistent with the practice of the artists who started from “objects” to express their mind, seeking objective laws and exploring the trajectory of life.

The three artists had further discussions on their own topics. Mi Jie through “Tour of the Body and Object” described and interpreted his works. The bright orange-acrylic planet structure on the cardboard is good to the last drop, in the “Mr. Kang” of a flat form style, the painter’s cat seems to have played the protagonist in the story and confides in a series of unique experiences to the audience. Mi Jie revealed his recent change of mindset in his creation. “In recent years, my creation has focused on the familiar scenes or objects around me… but I recently started to have a subtraction and tried to represent some old things that are repeatedly used”. After shifting the “objective focus perspective” model which has been adapted for a long time to a relaxed flat visual style, multi-dimensional perspectives were interwoven, making the colors brighter. In his words, they were “not as ‘heavy’ as previous ones, and it has been released and freer.”

Sun Yitian considers the “objects” as “a pair of eyes viewing half the moon”–we can only see one side of the moon. Her understanding is as attractive as her works. When the large & colorful plastic toy duck, and a glittering diamond candy are presented in an unique perspective and color, the audience is shocked by the contrast between this “cheap and eternity”. As the curator reviews states, “Sun Yitian’s creations always wear a cute, dreamy coat, which hides her ambition quite well.” Her artistic path is closely related to her life experience. Sun Yitian was born in Wenzhou. She can’t forget the experience of visiting Yiwu’s cheap goods market. She considers the relationship between “objects” and creation as a “reshaping of the shaping”. “The plastic yellow duck is the creation of the producer and my painting which is a re-creation.” It is actually a reflection and solution to the commodity ecology and social production–she said that, art was a very good path that was able to describe some indescribable plants and to reach a place that can’t be reached.” It is within our visual experience and outside our logical thinking.

The four groups of three-dimensional installations placed in the middle of the exhibition hall are the largest sculptural groups in this exhibition. The refined appearance and the thick blue color reveal a minimalist abstraction. Three pure white pieces which are eye-catching with a rough texture are hung on the wall. These works come from the artist Yan Laichao’s “Shell of the Stream of Consciousness”. The traces of volcanic rocks on the ruins of Pompeii, the shards produced by Michelangelo when he was carving David, minimalism, and the space theory including the ideas of “extended to infinity” and “beyond the plain surface”, are all his inspiration. He confessed that he was inarticulate, so that he attempted to use a highly stretchable space and color to carry the “consciousness” that can’t be portrayed in words, and these creations are their “shells”, as he said, “We have too many things that can be seen and described, so I hope to explore some consciousness and dreams that transcend language”. It may be the artist’s talent and instinct to express feelings in an artistic way, rather than the oral language.

As Fan Di’an stated at the opening ceremony, “paying more attention to and respect for their own life experience and growth experiences” is a way to explore the self, and it is also the secret of retaining the vitality of art for a long time. The three artists present their “studying the nature of things” with a heads-up perspective, or in an expanded way, or a material way. This understanding is then returned to life in a lively fashion that is an inspiration for creation and then turned into a new life in a cyclical rhythm of time. In the future, the CAI Young Artist Laboratory will also explore more stories to provide a stage for young artists’ spiritual narratives and expressions. The exhibition remains on view till April 16, 2018.

Text by Zhang Yizhi, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO     

Photo by Yang Yanyuan, Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO

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