Fiona He

  • Zhang Peili

    Zhang Peili’s “Now That” did not extend the most hospitable greeting to its viewers. Upon arriving at the gallery, one immediately found oneself barricaded in an imposing open-roofed structure made of shiny metal railings, whose doors then opened up to allow passage into the space. Inside, a dozen new and used mattresses—some leaning against a wall, others resting on the floor, were scattered about. Lying down on any of the mattresses, one heard a digitally simulated voice reading out names.

    Whose were those names enunciated at five-second intervals? And what was the relationship of this piece,

  • Xinyi Cheng

    “I told him I was a painter who’s fascinated by emotions, desires and power dynamics.” So writes Xinyi Cheng in recounting her first acquaintance and ensuing friendship with Christiaan, a gay man, upon moving to the Netherlands in 2016. Narrated in a matter-of-fact tone, the story served as the press release of her first solo exhibition in China, “Harnessing the Power of Wind.”

    Most of the works on view—paintings and a photographic still life—were produced during Cheng’s two-year residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. In focusing her attention on the life of a gay European man,

  • Hu Xiaoyuan

    This exhibition was the second installment of Hu Xiaoyuan’s exhibition trilogy. Much like the name of the trilogy’s first chapter, “Ant Bone,” this show’s title, “Grass Thorn,” reminds one of an Emily Dickinson poem with its awkward and elusive semantics. The works of art are enigmatic cues to investigate the potential meanings of these words. What can the viewer draw from them?

    The gallery opened up to a constellation of works from the series “Momentary Place,” 2015–17, and “Grass Thorn,” 2016–17. The former includes five structures of reclaimed and rusted metallic sticks welded into a flimsy

  • picks February 01, 2017

    “Trembling Surfaces”

    Travel, one could argue, spans three basic notions: time, displacement, and experience. The artist-curator duo Guo Xi and Zhang Jianling have not only adopted travel as a narrative device in their artistic practice in the past (their nautical expedition in 2015 resulted in the work The Great Navigation) but have also translated their shared intrigues, in discovering an alternative narrative, into their work. This exhibition offers a survey of artist peers who have taken up the torch and explored journeys of their own making.

    Whether it is through hypothetical time travel to the future in order

  • Heman Chong

    A light box installed on the Rockbund Art Museum’s exterior, featuring the neon text ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS in Arabic, English, and Chinese (all works 2016), serves as a prelude to Heman Chong’s exhibition “Ifs, Ands, or Buts.” Prior to entering the museum, the viewer may also notice a disclaimer written on a nearby billboard: THE STORY, ALL NAMES, CHARACTERS AND INCIDENTS PORTRAYED IN THIS EXHIBITION ARE FICTITIOUS. This is, perhaps, a tribute to Samuel Beckett; I was reminded of the playwright’s note that opens his 1965 film Film: NO TRUTH VALUE ATTACHES TO THE ABOVE, REGARDED AS OF MERELY

  • Wei Jia

    Shanghai’s frigid winter seemed to resonate through the mildly biting spring, as if the haunting memories of the immediate past were unwilling to fade. Or at least that’s the feeling one was left with after viewing Wei Jia’s solo exhibition “Mildly Biting, Encountering Spring,” consisting of nine new paintings from the past three years. The outlook in these imaginary landscapes remains ambivalent, fearful, and anguished.

    Wei seems to have taken a step back in order to get a larger view of the world. Rather than evoking the inner world of an individual, as in his previous work, here the artist

  • “Ming Wong: Next Year”

    A native Singaporean currently based in Berlin, Ming Wong playfully reimagines cinema classics through a transcultural lens, populating the films of such directors as Wong Kar-wai, Ingmar Bergman, and Roman Polanski with “impostors”—usually the artist himself, or hired actors—and inverting the films’ titles. Part homage, part satire, Wong’s re-creations transform race, gender, and nationality into fluid categories of identification. In Life of Imitation, 2009, for example—the artist’s contribution to the Fifty-Third Venice Biennale—three male actors of

  • picks March 19, 2015

    Liu Wei

    Liu Wei translates his environment into simple yet concise forms by using the most precise materials to make his point. On entering, visitors have to navigate through the engulfing Enigma (all works 2014), a constellation of towering geometric forms covered in folded military or transportation canvases. As visitors find their way to the spherical shapes at its center, a giant screen of fluctuating colors, titled Shapeshifting, plays off of the digitally planned landscape paintings executed in oil vertically and horizontally lining the walls.

    The artist’s discerning choice of materials and

  • “Unlived by What Is Seen”

    “Unlived by What Is Seen,” the awkward and ambiguous English version of this exhibition’s Chinese title, may suggest a kind of annulment of visual experience. A more literal translation would be “(Artists’) Actions Beyond Visual Production.” In other words, one should not expect to find any conventional qualifying tropes or definitions of the art object in this show. “Unlived by What Is Seen” recalls Harald Szeemann’s legendary exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern in 1969, “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form.” Sharing a similar impulse to act against the materialization, commercialization,

  • Song Ta

    Entering the exhibition space, viewers were greeted with two rows of elementary-school examination papers, hanging like Tibetan prayer flags. Each sheet bears the same score, 59.5—just half a point under the passing grade of 60. The exams were culled from schools in poor and remote mountainous regions, some of them populated by ethnic minorities. The quasi-religious mode of display may have allegorized the students’ hopes, but in choosing to display only the tests of those who failed to pass by just half a point, Song Ta projects his coldly satirical intent, evident in the work’s title,

  • slant December 21, 2013

    Fiona He

    THIS PAST YEAR, ignoring the excitement over young and emerging artists (many of whom know all too well what’s expected of them if they’re to thrive in the contemporary art world), and eschewing the gossip pertaining to the political and socio-economic complexities that drive large-scale biennales and mega-group exhibitions, I found myself drawn to the artists who emerged from the puritanical 1980s, many of whom continue to investigate epistemology, ascetics, or aesthetics via their artistic practices.

    On the closing day of Tang Song’s exhibition “Elegy – In Memory of Hans van Dijk” at Boers-Li

  • picks April 15, 2013

    Liang Yuanwei

    One gets the sense in Liang Yuanwei’s solo exhibition “Pomegranate” that she has set out to alter accepted notions of the role of the artist by constantly highlighting the variables and constants of production. Take, for example, Meaning, 2004, four small oil paintings that depict crinkled aluminum foil balls set against different colors that alter one’s perception of the foil. This work seems to encapsulate the hypothesis of the show, postulating that the meaning of an object does not only reside in its physicality—it must also ascribed by context.

    Pomegranate, 2011, adopts a similar method. To