• Date
      2017.03.04 - 05.28
    • Artist
      Deng Dafei
    • Curator
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Notes on Xi'an: In Remembrance of Ruins

In the decade that Deng Dafei has been working as an independent artist, the character of his work has been one of investigation. The process begins when the artist settles upon a suitable subject. It is then followed by an intensive period of research as Deng Dafei explores the topic, often exhaustively, until a practical mode of artistic expression emerges. The act of expressing what is now a large and fascinating group of ideas and concepts can take many forms. Deng Dafei has worked with drawing, painting, video, installation and performance, as well as other collaborative activities. The exhibition for OCAT Xi’an this time will presents a large number of artist’s works on paper combines with experimental video.
The results are always as surprising as they are fascinating. In another moment in time, Deng Dafei may well have chosen to be a professor – so many things appeal to his intellect – for he also has a keen pedagogical interest. One might say, an urge to pass knowledge on, to share the things he learns and the experiences that accrue to that process widely. As art touches his life, he believes it is essential for others too. With his chosen the path of artist, he contents himself with instructing younger children in their general art classes, but it is his work indoctrinating adult art lovers into activities inspired by the subjects he explores that elicits the greatest satisfaction. His subjects can be people or an individual, as well as places, moments in history, or geographical sites. Previous projects include Family Museum 2008, which transformed the home of ordinary families on Shanghai into a “museum”, a site for artistic experience. Palace of Puzzle completed in Scotland in 2009 was an homage to the life and work of the early Scottish Sinologist James Legge, in whose name Deng Dafei and He Hai, his partner in the activity, mobilized a grand funeral parade. These are just some among community painting projects, experimental film-festivals and theatre productions realised in partnership with He Hai as the Utopia Group or by Deng Dafei himself.
For his project at OCAT Xi’an, Deng Dafei places his investigative eye on certain geographical sites. This approach is part of an on-going project he titles Ruins. The Ruins project began in 2014, with the aim of doing more than merely documenting physical change. Here Deng Dafei creates physical marks of remembrance; visual art works that record change in a factual way, but at the same time give life to the emotional sentiments that the rapid pace of redevelopment prompts in its wake. The transformation of vast areas of countryside that border large cities is a process of almost natural evolution for countries like China undergoing a period of development – and in China that development has been fast and widespread – but that does little to mitigate the nostalgic melancholy that people experience as a result. Deng Dafei wanted a motif that could capture the aura of physical loss. He finds it in stone, paper and ink, and the traditional technique of rubbing, like that used in Xi’an’s Beilin Museum to record impressions from the surface of ancient stone stele.
In the first phase of Ruins, Deng Dafei carved elaborate bas reliefs on the floor of what were now demolished homes, or the place in the earth where homes once stood. In the latter case, Deng Dafei filled in the holes in the earth and made his carvings on these. Once complete, the carvings are immortalised by making a rubbing. Some rubbings have a rich thick texture because they are made from of papier mache, becoming bas-relief impressions themselves.
The exhibition runs from March 4 to May 28, 2017.

OCAT Xi'an would like to thank Between Art Lab, Shanghai and Beijing for support with Deng Dafei’s project.

About the Artist
Deng Dafei graduated from Department of Comprehensive Art, China Academy of Art, in 2005 with a master’s degree. He is currently living and working in Beijing as an independent artist. In recently year, he initiated the Utopia Group with He Hai, and its practical methodology is comprised of a string of artist-in-residence programmes.


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