2015

    • Date
      2015.11.21 - 2016.02.28
    • Artist
      Liang Yuanwei
    • Curator
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Oval

Better known as a painter, Liang Yuanwei’s principle attitude towards art is almost best articulated in umustbestrong, one of the small number of installations she has produced in her ten-year career. umustbestrong is a simple assemblage of an actual machine juxtaposed with evidence of the use to which Liang Yuanwei put it. Typing on the most challenging of surfaces, delicate, dissolvable toilet tissue, she plotted the phrase “u must be strong”, over and over, in impeccably neat and even rows. This combination of material and text is a sharply clever double entendre in the ambiguity over what it is that must be strong. The word “strong” is the adjective used by a well-known western toilet paper brand to advertise the quality of its product – softness that a baby would appreciate but at the same time strong enough to withstand a puppy running away with the end of the roll. But since this is art, Liang Yuanwei is understood to be directing our attention beyond the obvious to her core concept. In this case, she leads us towards what we know of her and of the act of art – making. In any field, women must be strong in order to compete with their male counterparts; women might remind themselves to be strong (emotionally) as no man ever would. For men, being strong is a physical experience. This is a simple reading of umustbestrong; the possible interpretations the work invites are multiple. Importantly, the components Liang Yuanwei brings together might be simple, but the effect is something quite profound. Thus umustbestrong is taken as the starting point for this exhibition, Liang Yuanwei’s first in a mainland institution.
 
The block of typed text in umustbestrong has a visually harmonic echo with Liang Yuanwei’s painting process. The compositions are built consciously around a pattern, and a building process that is dictated a line-by-line motion across the canvas, an inch-by-inch downward motion, not because the artist wishes to make a statement about being mechanical, but in order to be ordered, methodic. The technique requires skill, patience and discipline. Courtesy of the pattern form, the texture achieved is, in large part, the painting’s beauty, but that pattern should not be read as the content of her work. “My paintings are my own little universe of materials, purposes and techniques.” Words make it sound simple, but the process is not.
 
Liang Yuanwei draws inspiration from a broad range of influences - Sol LeWitt, Jasper Johns from whom she says she learned most about painting, Goya, Italian frescoes and Orozco. But it is more accurate to say that research is an essential part of her process. The goal is to balance the act of looking with a process that deconstructs looking, that challenges perceptions of a work as seen from an image of the work, a picture of it reproduced first by means of printing, in a book, or magazine, on a flat smooth surface of paper often coated with a film to make it glossy or which may be textured like watercolour paper in an attempt to evoke the sense of art that comes with an original work. Now, more commonly, how the object of looking is a photograph transmitted by social media; no longer just a photographic representation but one that comes with light and illumination. This directs a recent exploration of scale in the paintings.
 
Alongside umustbestrong and a second object work, A Piece of Painting, 2013, “strong” presents a dozen new paintings especially created for this exhibition and which show Liang Yuanwei’s thinking and concept at their finest.
 
  
OCAT Xi’an would like to thank the following for their invaluable assistance with this exhibition: Leng Lin at Pace Beijing; Lv Jingjing at Beijing Commune; Lu Xun at Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, and Zhang Xiyuan.



About the Artist

Liang Yuanwei was born in Xi’an in 1977. She enrolled in the Department of Graphic Design, the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1995, receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in 1999, where she was a member of the art group “N12”. She continued with a Master’s degree at CAFA, 2001 to 2004 and, between 2004 and 2006, remained there as a teaching assistant. Since 2006, she has lived and worked in Beijing as an independent artist.


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