An exhibition representing a display of the latest creations of contemporary artists in China – Connecting the Dots
An impressive enterprise, the exhibition Connecting the Dots gathered the creations of 43 artists, from emerging to mid-career, the exhibit showcasing more than 100 artworks.
This was definitely a tough event to accomplish by the curators – Yifan Wei, Elliott Hambrook, and Elevate – who managed to put together many different styles, techniques, and artistic values. The show reminded me somehow of the French trend in the 20th century of organizing the so-called “Spring Salon Exhibitions” (Salon de Printemps), events that represented a display of the latest creations of contemporary artists; that’s what Connecting the Dots is.
So, in order to connect these different dots, the curators structured the show in four sections: “Altered Realities” (16 artists), “Facing Ourselves” (15 artists), “Impressions of the City” (4 artists) and “New Forms” (8 artists). The show presented creators from Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Changshu, and the USA, many of them already popular on Shanghai’s art scene, and some of them having their debut at this exhibition.
Although the curatorial project displayed the artworks according to the subject matter and style, my review of the most interesting artworks in the show will focus on their style: abstract, expressionist, constructivist, and figurative.
Some of the abstract works proved the artists’ search of technique “effects”: Anastasiya Sakhnova is drawn to express abstraction through resin pour art; Charles Belin mixes acrylic with industrial paint, suitable for his desire to drip very thin lines of color in order to draw “galaxies” in Pollockian manner. Long vertical drips in warm colors illustrate a certain drama of Keith Hall’s reality; signs, lines, gestures that could pertain both to Asian and African cultures, show that Helene Begusseau tries to reveal a primordial pre-Babel vocabulary of symbols. Xiaolong and Zhou Shuqiong seem to structure their emotions through dark and light backgrounds, symbolizing that their reality has entered another state of existence.
As an artist interested in rendering the time element, the shifting of moments, of realities, I think that Alex Carroll’s artwork needed a place in the first section because it is about abstraction, about illustrating the passage of time. Alex Carroll’s “Self portrait”, created in his favorite technique of soft pastel, charcoal, graphite powder and ink on paper, is his “altered ego” portrait which reveals the drama, despair, anxiety of the soul in the contemporary world.
Crow’s concept of dedicating his art to cancer survivors shows a serious artist focused on the message and the painting as well; his abstract-expressionistic style with X-ray collages creates powerful compositions with immediate impact on the viewer.
Placed right at the entrance in the gallery space, Zhang Runping’s works also capture the eye by means of strong chromatic and impasto brushstrokes characteristic of the expressionist style.
Constructivist approaches are present in the work of two artists: Brian Hofmeister’s geometric art makes him a unique voice on the local art scene, focusing on creating digitally designed forms to which he adds contrasting flat colors; Pang Zhenyong’s reality shifts from a totally formalist view (his approach for many years) to an abstract allover composition made up of fragments of faceted shapes, pipes, geometric elements rendered black and white degrade of Cubism influence. He calls his style a “restructuring concept”.
The formalists’ artworks revealed that figuration went towards a pure description of portraits or nudes; still, David Rodriguez and Elliott Hambrook challenge the viewers to have experiences with sexuality and taboos in their images, David uses his self-portrait and Elliott his iconic skeletons.
Sweet strange worlds reside in Jake Johnson and Liu Xuwu’s works, the American artist creating an ironic Pop Art style portrait, “Cyanamide Sweets”, mixing black and white drawing with flat, strong colors. In Liu Xuwu’s compositions, abstraction alternates with figuration (a puppet-like portrait) in order to reveal memories, states of mind and soul.
By means of photography and digital oil painting, the city’s surreal atmosphere or hectic night lights are beautifully revealed by Xue Shanshan and An Xu, the young artists capturing moments of the urban life in pink shades.
The “creative madness” of conceiving three-dimensional artworks from many types of materials was clearly showcased by Antonio Sevilla, Bodas Ludira and Wuya, whose sculptures and installations show that inventiveness has no limits. Antonio Sevilla is a powerful illustrator of the aesthetics of the scrap, creating some amazing toy-like constructions; Bodas Ludira gives perfect forms to galvanized iron wire and Wuya adorns with delicate gold drawings Japanese rhinoceros beetles, making them look less creepy.
Anisul Haque reveals the drama of the refugees, their shattery existence is rendered by the fragile ceramics, whilst MLB plays with the same existential idea of fragility in time in his “Nothing Lasts Forever” walk-able sequin carpet on which the audience could change the written message.
On a global view of the show, the majority of artists reveal that the use of color is important to them and even explosive, the entire exhibition showing versatility, skill and overall interesting work.