Monday, November 06, 2006

Shanghart on Moganshan

For this week, I visited Shanghart on Moganshan Road for the solo exhibition by contemporary Chinese performance artist Yang Zhenzhong. Revisiting this elusive gallery again brings back memories of the first time. The distasteful cappuccino with drops of hardening black goo, the rumbling and cumbersome warehouse elevators, the cordial and welcoming foreign gallery owners and the storage and exhibition of many impressive works of modern art all return to my memory.

I arrived at Shanghart after striding through the familiar alleys lined with art galleries and walked into the spacious solo exhibition gallery to witness the photos and videos made by Yang Zhenzhong. Born in Xiaoshan in 1968, Yang Zhenzhong now lives and works in Shanghai. He graduated from the oil painting department of the China Fine Arts Academy in Hangzhou in 1993, and started working with video and photography in 1995. Yang Zhenzhong’s works have shown in all major biennales and triennials such as Venice (2003), Shanghai (2002), Guangzhou (2002), and Gwangju (2002). Yang’s solo exhibition in Shanghart is his first cooperation with the gallery.

Different artists have different preferences and perception. Yang emphasizes the focus and compliment of the subject in his artwork with the background. Using photography, Yang manipulates the background and the subject to portray ordinary people and daily life. Vibrant colors and entrancing settings enrich and accentuate the central characters in the photography and animation. Through the implementation of the environment and present objects and subjects, Yang illustrates contemporary China through a snapshot. As if fusing culture, modernity, psychology and existence in a single image, Yang reveals our world in one picture. As one of the audience, I felt perplexed but captivated by his photos. In his series titled Light and Easy, Yang has his characters upholding the immeasurable weight of urban and material society.

Fascinated by the photograph of a man lifting a reversed Pearl Tower and Pudong Financial District, my eyes refused to leave the picture. The complex combination of building colors contrast with the simple but effective dark sweater of the man. Visual contrast strengthens the contrast of the subject and setting. As if holding a feather, the man easily lifts the urban structure with his palm. Yang employs photography to scrutinize contemporary Chinese society. Yang emphasizes individuality over the intricate urban composition. As if the contemporary material and urban growth is a mere façade and holds little weight and impact, Yang accentuates the merit of the individual. Such an emphasis shows both his contemporary deviation from communist ideals and also his criticism of current modern Chinese dependence on material wealth and gain.

Using metaphorical imagery, Yang challenges contemporary normality through the splendor of contorted reality. As a picture is worth a thousand words, each viewer will no doubt interpret the images differently. Let us join our thoughts and share our experience to divulge our world beneath contemporary materialistic desires.

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