Pearl Lam Galleries is pleased to present Neo-Perception, a group exhibition that gathers the works of 24 young female Chinese contemporary artists. The exhibition, curated by Dr. Wang Chunchen, will show a prime selection of works from the artists’ oeuvres. Participating artists are Gao Shan, Gao Sihua, Geng Xue, He Xiaochun, Ju Ting, Li Na, Li Zi, Lin Ran, Lin Xin, Liu Qianyi, Liu Ren, Liu Yujie, Luo Wei, Mi Yuming, Pei Li, Wu Chao, Wu Mengshi, Wu Silin, Yu Feifei, Zhang Yaning, Zheng Qi, Zhou Hongbin, Zhou Qiaoyun, and Zhou Qingshan.
If “an artist is not a man who describes, but a man who feels”, as claimed by the poet and painter E.E. Cummings, then it can be understood that the intricacies unique to female identity and perception give rise to an immense field of art deserving of the utmost earnest attention. Neo-Perception embraces and confronts the imagery and language unique to art that reflects the diversity in women’s experiences and approaches to their identity, apart from exploring other themes on humanity. Art at any time period sees artists seeking their own voice as a fundamental pursuit; as a contemporary art exhibition, we witness the range of mediums that allow artists to express a variety of themes, including identity, sexuality, gender, mortality, relationships, and social dynamics.
Wu Chao’s Audio-Video Project to Awaken Patients in Vegetative State—Energy is a brilliant demonstration of art’s cooperation with psychology, medicine, and Buddhism, and the profound spiritual experience it ignites in humans. The work, which uses colourful visuals and stimulating sounds to illuminate and thereby awaken the unconscious layers of the patient’s mind, has proven its effectiveness as a medical treatment in 2015 when the first patient was awoken from her vegetative state.
In contemporary art today, the medium is more than a channel of expression; it is also in itself a vital part of the work. A clever example of this is the video work by Geng Xue, whose preference for porcelain traces back to her passion for Chinese traditional arts. In Mr. Sea , her retelling of Strange Tales of Liaozhai, Geng crafts a new language based on the traditional medium of porcelain by using animated film to bring the material to life, not only through motion but also by interactions that bring out the force of life inherent in the art form. Another artist who places extensive focus on the medium of her artwork is Gao Shan, whose Spherical Forms in Space mixes silica with sponges to form an imposing, bewildering visual that suggests human body parts. Her work relates to an imagined world of strange new organisms, remarking on human nature’s tendency to control and systemise. In highly conceptual works Windy Space and Grass Growing No. 3 , artist Lin Xin reveals the interdependent relationship between electronics and humankind by presenting a fragmented yet polished, almost mystical, perfection of the virtual sphere. The series reflects Lin’s focus on recapturing the ‘bug’ state in electronic virtual technology, an error in software programming. The use of multi-disciplinary platforms to construct an alternative reality is also taken advantage of by Luo Wei, whose Crystal Planet project portrays a virtual world that unites every being to share and inspire one another.
Zhou Qinshan takes the subject of human nature even further. Her sculpture Master’s Chair is a discourse on person-to-person dynamics, particularly through the relationship between the chair and the viewer. Zhou introduces the state of conflict created in the distance between the viewer and the empty chair, which in its function is an invitation to be sat on. However, its form makes it impossible for the viewer to do so. Zhou’s discourse goes beyond the relationship between the viewer and the subject, extending to humankind’s innate essence and judgment of actions.
Yu Feifei is an artist who engages in philosophical and anthropological topics with sophistication. Refinement of Folly (Self-Portrait) and wax sculpture Randy Randy dwell on confusions of identity arising from mankind’s quest for wisdom, while her other works showcased in this exhibition take on female sexuality. Yu’s Man with Strokes was born out of the artist’s interest in conveying femininity in a ubiquitously masculine torso. Mi Yuming satirises the human gaze that society has conditioned people to cast upon the female body with her series In the Corner, while Lin Ran’s Lesbos Island centres on the intimacy of lesbian relationships, surveying the role of sexuality in a woman’s identity. Wu Silin boldly confronts gender constructs in her installation Lin’s World, set in a fictional world revolving around a character, Suck, and Wu herself, as they turn the tables on patriarchy and male dominance in the domestic, political, and sexual realms.
Zhou Hongbin’s multimedia techniques give her Aquarium series a mystical, poetic quality in its portrayal of pregnancy. Beyond the profound experience and state of pregnancy, other facets of womanhood in a woman’s life cycle are highlighted in Liu Ren’s A Tribute to All the Lost Ova which reflects the anxieties and pressures a woman faces as she grows and ages in stunning structures composed of menstrual blood.
Other artists who bring fresh approaches to traditional mediums, particularly that of painting, include Gao Sihua and Ju Ting. Gao Sihua’s Red Bridge After the Rain features acrylic paintings of familiar landscapes common in ancient Chinese paintings and scrolls. While the use of outlines to create a visual impact is a fresh, unique approach by Gao, the paintings’ contents and use of colours and space remind one of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Ju Ting, with her background in print-making, felt compelled to expose the layers of colours formed in layering one acrylic colour over another by artfully slicing through the thickness with a knife. The resulting abstract work is visual evidence of her tendency towards engraving combined with her creative eye for colours.
In her ink on paper series 36.9 Degrees Zhou Qiaoyun reflects at the same time her understanding and her disillusionment and collision with reality that come with being middleaged. Li Na’s somber paint series Wanderer features chameleons as metaphors for humans in a society acting for their own survival. She details the chameleon’s adaptability and quiet alertness, which are characteristics she sees as similar to humans. He Xiaochun pays tribute to her father by painting symbols of wisdom and uprightness in Fang, using the Chinese character for ‘square’ as a base, while Liu Yujie illustrates the divide between form and reality in her work Waterfall that is reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s The Green Box. Zheng Qi’s Explosion is the artist’s outcry at the noise and chaos that we generate to make up for the lack of understanding between people.
Lily Yu’s work Torso is a nightmarish, surreal painting that evokes a certain mystery and depth, prompting the viewer to imagine and contemplate themes such as the nature of humankind and mortality. In Death’s Head Moth, Pei Li also dwells on the mortality and vulnerability of relationships with her depiction of a moth, the ubiquitous symbol of death, constructed with 18k gold, gemstones, and skin shed from her own tattoo recovery.
The generation born in the 1980s saw a great deal of change in ideologies, culture, and way of life. This in turn pushed artists to experiment with art that portrayed, or that could help them better understand, the conflicts that arose within themselves. Among them is multidisciplinary artist Liu Qianyi. Her piece Revolution is part of a comic series, whereby she explicates her sentiments of liberty and fate. A sensitivity and awareness of the physical body resonates in Liu’s work in the photographic series Touch of Life. By picturing the unique sensibilities of maternity next to the imagery of plastic bags, Liu expresses her concerns for future generations, as well as her own conflict and unsettlement as a young woman in Tokyo, a city in a state of transition.
Also conscious of the sensitivity of the body and how it relates to one’s inner self is Wu Mengshi, whose sculptural installation Worm captures the textural feeling of skin touching a fuzzy sweater. Wu uses her awareness of the physical body, even the subtlest of sensations, to find and perhaps realise the inarticulate struggles within her, some of which may be cyclic and never-ending, altogether depicting the conflict between a restlessly consuming society and the innate desires of the soul.
Lastly, Zhang Yaning uses sculptural portrayals of characters to depict the perplexities of youth. In Empty Sorrow and What’s Yours is Mine, she deplores the role of relationships in defining a person’s identity.
The psychological, philosophical, existential messiness of women’s lives and identities remains a legitimate and compelling domain of art. Neo-Perception seeks to open a discussion on today’s generation of women and how they are reflected in art, without assuming the label of ‘female art’. Rather, the exhibition seeks to unveil a new consciousness and perception of the world as it is today—without doubt a feat that owes itself to feminism, the movement that has evidently shaped much of societal values and structure—and, at the same time, transcend gender differences to tap into the human nature we all share. Altogether, Neo-Perception strives for a more in-depth discussion on women and their societal roles.