Realm of Form as Emptiness • Fang Shao Hua

17 April - 9 May 2015

This exhibition presents the latest series of works by Chinese artist Fang Shao Hua, entitled Perceived Form on Chest and Bamboo without Regulation.

 

The two series feature six series of conceptual works, comprising five to fifteen tableaux each, as well as six individual oil paintings, all created by the artist between 2012 and 2014. The various tableaux illustrate the concept of change—between form and nothingness, between nihility and being.

 

Born in 1962 in Hubei, Fang Shao Hua is a bright icon of Chinese contemporary art. He graduated from Hubei Academy of Fine Arts in 1983, and obtained a master's degree from the same school in 1988. Fang is now Dean of the Art Institute of South China Normal University.

 

Since the mid 1980s, Fang has employed Expressionism, Pop Art and Surrealism imagery and created serial oil works that explore urban motifs of searching for self-identity in suburbs, the renovation of cities, socio-cultural development, the rise and fall of trends, ecological and environmental protection, economy and finance, and of course, art history. Being a scholar-artist who cares about the humanities and social phenomena, Fang has shown uniqueness in both motif and form. Starting from The Red Pillar series in early 90s, he has consolidated his remarkable style through series like The Arc and Umbrellas. In the recent decade, Time Goes By, The Eden, Expansion of The Turkish Bath and numerous reinventions of classics in art history have marked another milestone for him.

 

In 2012, he started to develop the series of Bamboo without Regulation. He has brought the unique character of Chinese brush into full bloom in his oil works. His works differ from traditional literati paintings by the overlapping oil brushwork, which is a deliberation to coincide with the freestyle element in ink. In contrast to ink painting on Chinese xuan paper, which is water-based,the stylish brushwork and texture of oil creates a similar, yet novel visual impact.

 

Each work of this series constitutes of many consecutive panels. Starting from the first, plain white panel, white bamboo leaves are gradually painted in light and dark grey, then diffuse and merge as a charcoal black bamboo clump. On the almost all black screen, he then continuously applied layers of grey and white brushworks in an attempt to fade the gradients until the screen was covered with the intense whiteness and transformed to an indescribable and abstract schema. The superimposition of black and white has wiped out the historical and cultural metaphors of image and symbol. It was born in emptiness, and then vanished into emptiness.

 

Based on this series, Fang further developed another conceptual series named Perceived Form on Chest in 2014. Fang invited models for painting bamboos on real human bodies. He first painted the nude model into white and use the white body as his canvas. He then painted the bamboo shoots like practising calligraphy, carefully laid out each stroke and every layer. When the human body was almost covered in black, he would colour and splash the human body with white paint again to create the alternate black and white, a visual impact similar to the glaze produced by Jun kiln. The human body attains sheer white once again. Close to enlightenment, the contrast and unity of black and white, being and nihility, less and more, form and emptiness in his works have successfully demonstrated a spiritual explorative journey of visions and mentality.

 

Li Xu, Deputy Director of Power Station of Art, wrote the following critique on Fang’s latest creation:

 

“…Using overlapping texts, covering images and the process of diminishing to give rise to new meanings in recent series like Bamboo Without Regulation and Perceived Form on Chest, as well as changing the static to mobile and the monotonous to multifarious, have become Fang's exclusive methodology and contributions of art. Nowadays in the early 21st century, Chinese contemporary culture has gained the long-vanished confidence along with the rise of power of the country. The age of using ideological symbols to attract exotic gaze has passed. Contemporary Chinese artists need to contemplate art itself. In their future practice, the revitalization of ethnic identity and history as well as its expression has gained more and more importance. How to avoid the ‘motif-driven’ mode of art production? How to present the Chinese traditional aesthetics in the contemporary context? How to realize the abstruse and unfathomable conceptual art through expressions of different senses? How can painting continue its indispensable role in the contemporary art development? ...In face of all the aforementioned questions, Fang Shao Hua has offered us a persuasive exemplification with his recent creations.”