2014

    • Date
      2014.03.22 - 2014.07.21
    • Artist
      Jia Aili, Wang Yin, Duan Jianyu, Zhao Gang, Li Shurui, Qiu Ruixiang
    • Curator
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About Painting

What is painting today? It is a medium said to have died several times over the last 170-odd years since the remark was first made by a painter confronted with the new invention of photography. In 1839, upon the discovery of daguerreotypes and the realisation of what photography might imply for his craft, French painter Paul Delaroche was the first of many individuals in generations to come to proclaim painting “dead”. One man looking at a camera decided painting’s future had been denied yet, 170 years on, painting remains; not only in existence but in popular terms and, it seems, by popular demand.
 
Painting today comes in so many guises: photographic in realism, graphic in simplicity; the content can be surreal, dreamlike, abstract, still, silent, frenetic, measured, controlled, dripped, spun, splattered, washed, embossed, impastoed, precise, loose, expressive. But a painting itself is none of these things alone, it is the result of an arrangement of elements, essential components of the world the painter seeks to represent. This world forms a reality that belongs to the individual painter alone.
 
Still, the question of what painting is today is not irrelevant. Are painters today simply reinventing the wheel? If, on the one hand, painting is an outmoded medium then to what does it owe the continued popularity amongst both artists and viewers? Despite all the shifts in emphasis that have occurred in the style and practice of painting in the last 170-odd years, and all the theories that have been constructed to define its recent evolutionary phases and the anti-aesthetic practices that artists have developed in attempts to reinvent this medium (the style termed "Bad Painting" as one example), artists continue to produce great paintings. Paintings that are considered to be “great” because they project a magical web of attraction that works on the viewers’ emotions as much as their eyes, defying both logic and the rational mind as they do so.
 
Painters today have to try that much harder than their predecessors to arrive at a distinctive voice, but one might argue that this act of trying harder is responsible for so much good painting that continues to be done as is clearly evident in the works of the six artists included in “About Painting”. Jia Aili, Wang Yin, Zhao Gang, Duan Jianyu, Li Shurui and Qiu Ruixiang, each work with a style and language that is recognisably their own and, in their various ways, present narratives and stories, personal experience and broader worldviews. Each demonstrates a precise feel for a particular set of emotions, sober, psychological, ethereal or humorous, and a distinctive application of the material of oil paint to accurately reflect their emotions. History demonstrates that as long as there are new circumstances and social experiences in the world, there will be subjects for painters to unravel on canvas. This is ultimately seen to best effect in what these six artists do as painting.

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