Once upon a time, with dazzling gleams, gorgeous products manufactured in factories, Modern Times was considered to be bright and vivid; however, when journey into recesses of our emotional and mental landscapes, Modern Times might be considered as period of gloom and sorrow, like in Charlie Chaplin’s white-and-black film Modern Times, one struggled to survive in the modern, industrialised world, where the inescapable desperate completely overwhelmed him.
This exhibition presents a blend of contrasted styles and colors in artistic creation, which incorporates a whole spectrum of colors with reflection of different aspects of urban life, and the very essence of the frenzied, absurd, cold and rapidly-changed Modern Times.
BIRDHEAD (est. 2004), is an artist collective - JI Weiyu (1980) and SONG Tao (1979), were both born in Shanghai, where they also reside and work today. The artists graduated from the Shanghai Arts and Crafts School in 2000. Their oeuvre consists of photographic images of everyday life in their native city of Shanghai. The snap-shot aesthetic of their extensive and accumulative photo-series (black and white as well as color) delivers a subjective and organic take on today's urban reality. Recent exhibitions include: New Photography 2012, MoMA, New York, U.S.A. (2012); Reactivation - 9th Shanghai Biennale, Power Station of Art, Shanghai(2012); The 54th Venice Biennale - ILLUMInations, Venice, Italy (2011); China Power Station - part 4, Pinacoteca Agnelli, Torino, Italy (2010); The World of Other's: A Contemporary Art Exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (2008); China Power Station II, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway (2007). And their solo exhibitions include: Welcome to Birdhead World Again-Beijing 2012, ShanghART Beijing, Beijing (2012); Birdhead: New Village, EX3 Centro per l'arte Contemporanea Firenze, Florence, Italy (2011); Artist File 2011 The NACT Annual Show of Contemporary Art, National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan (2011); Welcome to the World of Birdhead Again-2010, Guangzhou; Lianzhou (2010); Birdhead 2006+2007 Photography Show, BizART, Shanghai (2007).
Ji Wenyu (b. 1959), was born in Shanghai. He graduated from Shanghai Art and Craft School, Decoration Department and Light Industry College in 1980 and 1988, respectively. Consumerism becomes a belief system in Ji Wenyu's vibrant, detailed, yet saturated images. Revolution, market economy, and art history are alienated and stripped of their original meaning. In his emblematic paintings, Ji Wenyu contrasts communist propaganda imagery of workers and peasants in heroic poses with Western brand-name product logos. Here, political propaganda works mutually with Western marketing's promises of happiness, which the artist, ironically, presents to the public of a radically changing China. By juxtaposing images and icons of the stereotyped oriental and the assumed occidental, Ji Wenyu questions the politics of cultural representation. Ji Wenyu's works are full of surprises and reference both political occurrences and cultural productions while also focusing on the distortion of today's spectacle society. De-contextualisation of classic icons enables the artist to illustrate a more humorous perspective, as if to attempt to create a hyperrealism that surpasses the reality of the daily lives we lead in the midst of detached floating images. Irony is paramount in Ji Wenyu's work. Between the use of mimesis, critical distance, and narrative, Ji Wenyu's work achieves a rare balance between surrealism, pop, and precision. Revisiting the dichotomies of modernist painting, he manipulates the boundaries between figure and ground to produce an intense and comical baroque kitsch universe. Ji Wenyi has participated in numerous exhibitions including Make Over, OV Gallery, Shanghai (2010); Hyper Design-Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2006), Here the Scene is Better, H-Space ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai (2006), Dressing Up before Going Out, Museum 52, London, U.K.(2006); Infinite Painting, Villa Manin, Centre for Contemporary Art, Passariano, Codroipo (Udine), Italy (2006), Original, Shanghai Original Art Center, Shanghai (2004) and Money and Value, the Last Taboo, Expo 02, Switzerland (2002).
Liu Weijian (b.1981) lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from Shanghai Normal University of Art (2005). Liu Weijian’s paintings are impressive in scale as well as in consistency. Mostly held in douche and dark colors, however, there is something unsettling and uncanny in his painted environments. Cryptic titles such as Mentally Disabled People's Thoughts Impossible to Approve, Gambling without Answer, and Superstition's Implication also indicate that there is more at stake than just what is visible to the naked eye. He elaborates on the notion of space, both interior and exterior, and how such spaces seem to construct their own narrative. Often, these places are laden with anonymity and vastness, whether it is new industrial buildings or run-down generic habitats. Among Liu's favorite techniques is to juxtapose the indoors and the outdoors to create an otherworldly terrain. Adding to the aura of ambiguity is what he does in his paintings. His scenes, which commonly feature windows and doors, tend to serve as a reminder that there are other worlds just outside his canvas. Recent exhibitions include I Love You, Shanghart Beijing (2015); Under the Sun, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai (2014); The Idea Before Sunrise, Galería Yusto, Giner, Malaga, Spain (2012); Farewell my Country – Liu Weijian Solo Exhibition, Gallery Louis Vuitton Maison, Hong Kong (2011); China Power Station, Part IV, Pinacoteca Agnelli, Torino, Italy (2011); Antenna – Solo Exhibition, ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai (2010); The Call of Crowns, BizArt Art Center, Shanghai (2007).
Shi Yong (b.1963), graduated from Light Industrial School, Fine Arts Department. He resides and works in Shanghai. Since the 1990s, his works have been widely shown both in China and abroad. His artwork covers a wide range of mediums–including painting, performance, video and installation. Shi Yong’s earliest artistic practice focused on revealing the subtlety of our reality and the inherent tension in the 'system'. Shi Yong has exhibited widely since the early 1990's. At the end of the 1990s, Shi began focusing on the idea of Shanghai’s modernisation transition under Chinese economic reform, which contributed to a discussion on globalisation and consumption. Recent shows include: Let All Potential be Internally Resolved using Beautiful Form, MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai; Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Spaces for Maneuver- Between Abstraction and Accumulation, Ekaterinburg, Russia; Copylet, China Appropriation ART, Power Station of Art, Shanghai; Essential Matters-Moving Images from China, Borusan Contemporary Perili Kosk, Istanbul, Turkey (2015); Off Site Programme, Silent Film, Ikon Gallery, Fletchers Walk, Birmingham, U.K; Hans van Dijk: 5000 Names, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), Beijing; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2014); Face, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2012); Grasstress 2011, Venice, Italy (2011); Negotiation, The Second Today's Documents, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2010); Shanghai Kino, Shanghai Kino, KUNSTHALLE BERN, Switzerland (2009); The 3rd Nanjing Triennial-Reflective Asia, RCM ART MUSEUM, Nanjing (2008); Think carefully, where have you been yesterday?, BizART, Shanghai (2007); The First Today's Documents, Energy: Spirit ּ Body ּ Material, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2007); Follow Me!, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2005); Second Guangzhou Triennial, Guangsong Museum of Art, Guangdong (2005); Zooming into Focus, China National Art Museum, Beijing (2005); The Heaven, The World, ShanghART Gallery & H-Space, Shanghai (2004); 4th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai (2002); Biennale de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2002) and BM99, Biennale da Maya, Maya Art Center, Portugal (1999) etc.
Wei Guangqing (b. 1963), was born in Huanshi, Hubei province. He graduated from Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts, Department of oil painting of in 1985. He resides and works in Wuhan. Appropriating ancient illustrated books, he replaces the original text with the dominant visual symbol of a red wall, maintaining only the original illustrations and manipulating them with the flat pastiche technique of pop art. 'Wall' becomes the commanding feature in the basic composition and serves as a new projection screen for a new social order and new moral standards. The representation of the wall plays on the various connotations that this symbol embraces: a border, inclusion and exclusion, and protection from foreign intruders and influence. The deceivingly simple work draws on ancient Eastern philosophy while referencing Western pop-aesthetics. The wall becomes an ambiguous symbol because it is distanced from the nation it purportedly serves. In subverting the ancient classics, Wei Guangqing does not fully abandon tradition, but reminds viewers to recognise their entwined meaning in mainstream contemporary culture– in consumerism, politics and religion. His selected exhibitions include Re-History, Chinese Contemporary Art Invitation Exhibition, Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan (2012); Old Scriptures, Wei Guangqing Solo Exhibition, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai (2008); Zuo Tu You Shi, Wei Guangqing's Art Exhibition, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen (2007); 85 New Wave - The Birth of Chinese Contemporary Art, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing(2007); Made in China–the Paintings of Wei Guangqing, ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai (2005), China–Contemporary Painting, Fondazioni Cassa di Risparmio, Bologna (2005), Mahjong, Kunstmuseum Bern (2005) and First Triennale of Chinese Art, Guangzhou Art Museum, Guangzhou (2002).
Xu Zhen (b.1977), graduated from the Shanghai School of Arts and Craft in 1996. He currently resides and works in Shanghai. In 2009, Xu Zhen established MadeIn Company, which is a contemporary art creation company focusing on the production of creativity, and devoted to the research of contemporary culture's infinite possibilities. In 2013, the launch of ‘XU Zhen’ was announced, a brand produced by MadeIn Company ('Xu Zhen - Produced by MadeIn Company'). Xu Zhen won the top prize at the China Contemporary Art Award (2004). He was invited to the 49th Venice Biennale and has since exhibited his works widely. Recent exhibitions include 13 Rooms, Kaldor Public Art Projects, Walsh Bay, Sydney, Australia (2013); Xu Zhen: Forbidden Castle, Montanelli Museum, Prague (2012); Xu Zhen Video Works, Galerie Waldburger, Belgium (2010); The Last Few Mosquitos, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, U.K. (2009); Just did It!, James Cohan Gallery, New York, U.S.A. (2008); China Power Station: Part II, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway (2007); China Power Station: Part I, Battersea Power Station, London, U.K., (2006); On Mobility, De Appel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2006); China Contemporary - Art, Architecture and Visual Culture, Museum Boijmanns van Beuningen Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2006); The Thirteen–Chinese Video Now, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, U.S.A. (2006); Xu Zhen: 8848 - 1.86, ShanghART H-Space, Shanghai (2006).
Zhou Tiehai (b. 1966), He was born in 1966 in Shanghai, and attended the art school at the university there, where he also lives and works today works and lives in Shanghai. His conceptual projects represent the artist's vengeful attitude towards the self-absorbed art market. His work's power to amaze and provoke is the result of a host of strategies that mix antagonism with sincerity. The key ingredients that drive Zhou Tiehai's unsettling yet amusing practice include appropriating classical imagery, generating ironic projections, proclaiming laconic yet heartfelt discourse, and actively subverting painterly craft. Zhou Tiehai has exhibited extensively internationally at acclaimed institutions such as MoCA, Shanghai(2010); Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2006); Marella Arte Comtemporanea, Milan, Italy (2003); Hara Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2000); Kunsthal Rotterdam, The Netherlands (1998). Selected exhibitions including: The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7), Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), Australia (2012); The Global Contemporary, Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2011); Shanghai, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, U.S.A. (2010); Shanghai Kino, Shanghai Kino, KUNSTHALLE BERN, Switzerland (2009); The 5th AsiaPacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT5), Queensland Art Gallery, Australia (2006); Prague Biennale 2, National Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic (2005); 5th Shanghai Biennale–Techniques of the Visible, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2004); The American Effect, Whitney Museum, New York, U.S.A. (2003); 4th Gwangju Biennial, Korea (2002); Living in Time, 29 Contemporary Artists from China, National Galerie im Hamburger Bahnhof Museum fuer Gegenwartskunst, Berlin, Germany (2001); 48th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (1999); and Cities on the Move 1-6, Secession, Vienna, Austria etc.(1998–1999) etc.
Zhu Jia (b. 1963), works and lives in Beijing. He was graduated from China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1988. As a pioneer of the practice of video art in China, Zhu Jia always tries to capture ordinary scenes through distinctive methods of practice. Selected exhibitions include Critical Pervasion, Shanghart Gallery & H Space, Shanghai (2015); Mobile M+: Moving Images, Hong Kong (2015); Landseasky, Revisiting Spatiality in video art, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shanghai (2014); Out of the Box, The Threshold of Video Art in China (1984–1998), Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou (2011); Trans Local Motion—7th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Musuem, Shanghai (2008); 10th International Istanbul Biennial–Not only Possible, But also Necessary–Optimism in the Age of Global War, Istanbul, Turkey (2007); Zooming into Focus (NAMOC)-Contemporary Chinese Photography and Video from the Haudenschild Collection, National Art Museum Of China, Beijing (2005); 50th International Art Exhibition Venice Biennale-Dreams and Conflicts. The Dictatorship of the Viewer, Venice, Italy (2003); Tempo, the Works Show of Contemporary Art in 20th, The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York, U.S.A. (2002); Living in Time-29 Contemporary Artists from China, National galerie im Hamburger Bahnhof Museum fuer Gegenwartskunst, Berlin, Germany (2001); Every Day-11th Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art etc., Sydney, Australia (1998); Trade Routes: History and Geography, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, Johannesburg, South Africa (1997).
Press release courtesy ShanghART.