Opening reception with the artist: Sep 6, 2023 (6 p.m. - 8 p.m.)
Eli Klein Gallery is honored to present The Big Dream Show, Ye Funa's first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition features 12 new mixed media collage works from the 'Neo Folk Matrix' series, in addition to a video and two paintings, each demonstrating a unique 'dream' where different characteristics, items, symbols, colours, traditions, and cultures intersect. Filled with intricate details, these pieces are elaborately executed and contain a variety of elements such as plastics, artificial crystals, metals, fabrics, and an assortment of found objects. These 'little worlds and dreams,' in Ye Funa's own words, highlight her aspiration to explain what roles "folk" should play under the framework of contemporary art.
As is true with the majority of single-child families in China, Funa's relationship with her mother was 'offspring-centered'. Her mother Fu Liya started her career as a talented painter and sculptor but decided to become a full-time housewife in order to care for the family. With 'Neo Folk Matrix', the artist further examines the reciprocal relationship between her and her mother, or the 'provider' and the 'recipient'. What if traditional crafts and skills (folk) are supported by a contemporary framework (collage)? Or, what if Ye Funa can eventually be the champion of her mom? This time around, Funa and her mom finally get to witness the growth of the hundreds of little 'modified Funas' together.
Ye Funa sees through this process of merging a contemporary framework with traditional skills by working and sewing with her mother, in an impromptu style. This methodology of working also constitutes an 'in-between space', consolidating both the private channels of art creation and the public domain of tradition. Graduating from and teaching at the School of Experimental and Sci-Tech Arts at the Central Academy of Fine Art (which was initially called the 'Folk Art Department'), Ye Funa is fluent in the expression of traditional mediums such as paper-cutting, stitching, and embroidery. When approaching this new body of work, she initially provided a tone and a theme, but intentionally left many voids for the details and the potential development of the stories. With the crafty hands of her mother, Funa would then continue these initial prompts without further limits. She describes the creation process as 'emotional and free-flowing'. The co-creation process between the artist and her mother also echoes Funa's determination to empower women in the Chinese society, which has been a prominent component throughout her artistic career.
The distinction between the personal and socially-assigned identities has been another focal point of Funa's practice. In this new series of works, she extends her examination on individual human beings to everything in the natural and man-and-woman-made world. A cut-out of a waterfall, a dazzling peacock tail, a pink plastic toy that is simultaneously a banana and a necklace, a large number and variety of flowers which were all sewn differently. All these items have come to life so vividly in 'Neo Folk Matrix', each carrying its own literal and cultural significance. These items are juxtaposed with Funa's 'modified self' in hundreds of iterations. It is almost impossible to identify which Funas are the self-centered ones and which Funas are the socially-catering ones.
Instead of treating 'folk' as a genre, Ye Funa's newly-defined 'neo-folk' extends to being the medium, the object, the motif, the content, and simultaneously, the self-reflective process of, 'folk-ing', all woven into a big dream which consists of contemporary existence reinforced by tradition.
Press release courtesy Eli Klein Gallery.