Blurred visions and new juxtaposed against old

Xu Qin

A duo solo exhibition by Chinese female artists Bao Lei and Jiang Yifan is under way at the Art+ Shanghai Gallery along the Suzhou Creek in the downtown Bund area. Both derive from traditional Chinese painting techniques, but combine contemporary thinking and methods to create a style of their own.

In Bao Lei’s "Immersion in Lights," the subjects are wandering. They are elusive silhouettes, faceless figures and blurred visions. Each work embodies a moment of change when everything becomes nothing — a void and latent absent in today's fast-paced world.

“My works are closely linked to my life,” said Bao, who now works and lives in Chengdu, in southwestern Sichuan Province.

“The scenes in the paintings are mostly inspired on WeChat Moments, social media posts and incidents happened around me, such as an outdoor concert, a movie screening or a backyard BBQ.”

The speed and flow of the watercolors drive and push her works to the extreme. You may find it hard to fix your eyes on any of the scenes as time is slipping away, and you have to move fast. There is the speed of the Internet flux, as well as the spin of your mind, which prevents any reflection.

Bao Lei's "Peeping Around,” watercolor on paper

Jiang Yifan's "Theater No. 3.3," ink on silk

In Jiang Yifan's "Curtain Time," you get to see the typical themes of traditional Chinese paintings, such as water, mountains, bamboo and rocks, flowers and birds — an artistic tradition that goes back thousands of years.

But those are just a deliberate peep, or backdrop, at the back stage while the artist builds a contemporary stage in the middle under the limelight, and the curtains are raised in the front to offer viewers a sense of a modern theater experience.

“My in-depth study of Chinese art during my school days has influenced my artistic style. When I looked at these ancient works by artists who came before me, a different way of presenting them came into my mind,” said Jiang, a native of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The 29-year-old now lives and works in Beijing.

For the visitors, there is a type of nostalgia for circumstances that no longer exist, which create absurd sequences on the edge of dreams, marked by an idealization of the past and an element of virtual reliving of the old days.

Exhibition info

Dates: Through May 23 (closed on Mondays), 10:30 am-6:30 pm

Venue: Art+ Shanghai Gallery

Address: 191 Nansuzhou Rd

Source: SHINE   Editor: Zhang Liuhao

Monday 19 April 2021 Shanghai Daily