Fragmentary Narratives, the group exhibition opening February 9 in the Stanford Art Gallery with an opening reception on Thursday, February 11 from 5 - 7pm, explores the fragmentary nature of social and historical narratives in the works of four prominent contemporary Chinese artists: Fang Lijun, Xie Xiaoze, Yang Jiecang, and Yang Shaobin. Working from images found in newspapers, magazines, television and the internet, the artists deal with the superficiality of popular culture and how we perceive reality in a media-saturated world, while transforming the transitory imagery into seemingly more permanent art objects such as paintings. The exhibition is curated by Ji Shaofeng, associate director of the Hubei Museum of Art.
Fang Lijun: Spring 2008, a 4 by 8.8 m black and white painting, is filled with corpses taken from real historical images: the Paris Commune, Lenin in state, Hiroshima. Meanwhile, images of flies and mosquitos hide within the frame like various colored stains. Compared to his “bald period,” the subjects discussed in the new work clearly appear much more grand and abstract, reflecting on the “big questions” such as fate, death, ideals, transmigration, history and equality of all living creatures. While this is presented as the story of Fang Lijun pushing his work out from under his bald brand, it is better viewed as the artist’s update of old symbolic imagery.
Xie Xiaoze: historical ‘facts’ are fragments of stories that are constantly deconstructed and reconstructed; Xie paints fragments of events in a manner that thwarts story telling. They show us yesterday’s news, whether horrific, ordinary or banal, that resist coherency in a manner akin to digging up pieces of rubble at an archeological site.
Yang Jiechang has long been at the forefront of China’s Cantonese art scene and has gained acclaim for both his ink-based abstractions and his experimental works, through which he challenges Chinese traditions with a fierce contemporary spirit. Today, Yang’s work continues to blend traditional Chinese modes of representation with the pared-down aesthetics of Western movements such as Minimalism, Conceptualism, and abstraction. In one work, Oh My God!, Yang conflates thick calligraphic text and repeats the title until the words have become more of a pattern than a source of linguistic meaning. While his work takes inspiration from the West, Yang also uses distinctly Chinese materials such as silk, porcelain, and Chinese ink, in addition to neon, gauze, paint, and found objects.
Yang Shaobin's paintings are known for their refined composition, rich narrative and incisive commentary on the changing social landscape of China. Yang’s lush paintings combine worldwide news images to comment on prevailing violence in the media, achieving dramatic intensity and power.