Freedom of Transformation

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By Chun Xiao Hang

Many people paint to make a living, but this is not the case with Hu. She has a good life in Hong Kong and paints as a hobby, or rather as an artistic dream. This makes her feel more relaxed, less burdened, and free to make creative changes as her understanding of art changes. It should be said that her solo exhibition in Beijing in 2010 was the full manifestation of this state of mind.

Previously, Hu’s works mainly absorbed the pictorial expression of the 1990s, and used to create paradoxes between images in the juxtaposition of historical images, and thus conveyed the results of her view of history. Usually, this result is described by her as a kind of cultural and intellectual fragmentation. Undoubtedly, this understanding is the logical view of their generation and a natural reflection of their existential experience. However, in terms of artistic expression, this approach still tends to tell stories in pictures, focusing on the outcome of the story rather than on the artistic act of “storytelling” itself.

After traveling to European art exhibitions in 2010 and interacting with new generation artists in mainland China, she began a certain self-reflection on her creation method: from focusing on the outcome of the story to focusing on the change of “storytelling” behavior. Although, her creation still revolves around the historical fragmentation of Chinese culture and thought, she has achieved a gorgeous turnaround in the method of expression. In terms of intuition, she no longer sticks to the form of easel painting, but adopts a variety of media to realize the comprehensive presentation of her works on the senses. In other words, her works no longer tell a story by looking at the pictures, but require the viewer to experience a visual re-examination in a lively way – no longer direct image results, but some kind of visual clues, either on the shelf, or video, or physical objects, together constructing a personalized understanding of the context of historical cognition. Just like her re-interpretation of “Zhou Xuan” and “City Scene”, using a certain “defamiliarized” visual experience with a new media. Viewers are forced to change their original habitual perspective, thus rediscovering their ability to cognize history in the process of “viewing”.

This change is like a teacher who was used to telling people the answers, re-focusing on the process of education – the process of inspiring people to know the world, rather than telling them that the world is in a certain way. As a young person, I am more interested in this conceptual change in art, because it shows us the real interest of art as opposed to classical art: art is not a simple medium to reproduce a certain “nature” or “concept”, but a “visual means” to prompt us to reacquaint ourselves with the world. It is a “visual means” that requires us to be “conscious” of the visual presence of cognitive means. Obviously, Hu’s new work follows such an intrinsic logic and realize a new transformation of artistic expression, so that she is no longer a follower of the popularized image creation of the 1990s, but an explorer in a new artistic context.

What is more interesting is that Hu’s rediscovery of vision is still in line with her previous theme of “Spliced”. However, the “Spliced” is no longer simply representing fragmentation in the “historical sense” in an image, but the “fragmentation” of the subject that permeates the creation and even the viewing of the work. In other words, when we face Hu’s new work, we will find that certain habitual visual cognitive objects are forcibly “cut” out of our habitual context by the artist, so we have to rethink these objects in the new visual context, and then feel the value of art to our cognitive behaviors. Perhaps, in my opinion, this value is one of the important reasons why contemporary art can continuously involve in our real life.

(Chun Xiao Hang – Renowned contemporary art critic, curator, Associate Researcher of China National Academy of Arts, Art Director of Times Art Museum)

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