Stanislava Kovalcikova’s paintings are haunting, unsettling. Above all, they are real, depicting motifs taken from postmodern life: Stress, mental health, fluid sexualities. “However in painting it makes sense to show these states since words mostly fail in these situations. It’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation,” says the artist herself. Why she calls the exhibition her little Stonehenge, why spiritual maters are important and why everything is painting.
“Everything I do is painting”: Stanislava Kovalcikova at the Belvedere in Vienna | Numéro Berlin – Words: Antonia Schmidt
Owen Fu: The Geisttiere Dwell in the Void | LEAP – Words: Ren Yue / Translated by Kevin Wu
To some extent, these personified figural elements of Fu’s paintings are “creatures that sprung from feelings” or, simply, “geisttiere (mind/spirit-animals).” They never wait in lines to be painted and seen; instead, they conceal themselves within a temporality that manifests no distinctions between the artist and the viewers, wandering like crepuscular shadows that just got separated from their owners. Of course, it is still possible to converse with them or even caress them-if you also happen to be doleful enough. When mingling with these geisttiere, Owen Fu employs varied linework as a vocabulary for chitchats. In his small-size paintings, a vase, or a teapot could become animated by charcoal lines and metamorphize into amicable or cunning avatars. These lines carry no intention to reify anything into concrete figures, yet it is within their “aimlessness” and “inaccuracies” that the transmutations of emotions take place: the painter casts the line with no particular aim, and his subjects willingly leap out of his memories and psyche to land onto the canvas. These “voluntary catches” are fragments of the artist’s genuine lived experience. Language is always inadequate:; the passing and accumulation of time blur certain experiences and reactions, but as the imprecisions manifest in the painting, they also create space for reinterpretations and evolve the artist’s initial feelings.
Cui Jie’s Solo Exhibition “New Model Village” – The Guardian | Words: Skye Sherwin
It was less the architecture that interested Cui, however, than “the elements that are nowhere to be found today: who used to live there, the communal lifestyle and intimacy between people. Unlike buildings, traces of life can easily fade away.” A number of her works explore how communities’ aspirations and ideology are shaped by our surroundings. In drawings, Caoyang’s social realist public statues – including weavers with arms raised like conquering divinities – merge with edifices from the Bata estate. Elsewhere, Bata and Caoyang’s cinemas blend. Although western and Chinese movies were poles apart politically, she points out “they were both ritual spaces where the public is to be collectively entranced. We can clearly see the aesthetic function of the statues: they reveal the ideal state of trance.”
Kissing Through a Bullet Hole: Alexandra Noel | Text: Travis Diehl
paintings—in a way, it’s not too much to think of them as little precious mysteries, still smudged with pigmented afterbirth. Indeed, Baby Me (2021) and Y, a self-portrait (2019) both render the same photo of a minutes-old infant (presumably the artist) with different framings; here, painting allows a sort of out-of-body pilgrimage to the artist’s own beginning. It’s a wild, splayed composition, the infant’s purpled folds rubbed with medical gore, umbilical stub clamped closed. It is the endpoint of copulation, in a sense—certainly the end of gestation—and the beginning of consciousness and meaning making. The finished canvas is fresh, full, an articulated being unto itself, yet unresolved, taut with yearning, like two artificial flies kissing through a bullet hole.
Alexandra Noel in Conversation with Claire Shiying Li | Claire Shiying Li
I’ve always thought of paintings as being three-dimensional objects. I think it’s a common and disingenuous interpretation not to acknowledge that they exist in space and come off of the wall, even if it’s only slightly. Even if their surface depicts something “realistic”, I want the smallness of mine to call attention to them as objects, which can give the desire to hold or consume them. Sometimes I want the paintings to come off the wall entirely sometimes, which is where my “sculptures” come in. I’ve always looked at the sides of paintings when I go to see shows. Did the artist address them? Did they tape the edges to keep them clean or did they ignore them and let paint messily build up? Did they paint on unstretched canvas and then stretch it over bars? Frames used to resolve this issue but frames are rarely used anymore. For me, the enamel acts as a built-in frame, but sometimes I let the oil paint spill over the sides or let the enamel take over the face. I like that the viewer is sometimes rewarded if they look underneath.
Evelyn Taocheng Wang: Who is the master?｜Isabel Parkes
Wang is a rule bender. A commitment to fusing right with wrong, quotidian with institutional, and high with low courses through her practice. She inures herself to familiar formats in order to better interrupt her process of making and interpreting those formats This Trojan horse approach cultivates an active experience of looking that carefully conflates fantasy with melancholy, introspection with pop culture, and history with a version of the future that feels uncannily, at times unnervingly, familiar. ‘As an artist, I have lots of work to do to simply mix my two different elements: classical ones with new forms, new words, new body cultures, new national identities.’ Yet, as she adds, ‘All different elements can exist.’ Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when looking at Wang’s work: that the splintering or questioning it provokes, the natural light and the fake shadows, might together be signs of a new and fluid, if more dissonant, kind of coexistence.
Six Chapters on Li Ming | He Jing
When I write, there is nothing other than what I write. Whatever else I felt I have not been able to say, and whatever else has escaped me are ideas or a stolen verb which I will destroy, to replace them with something else.
Gates to the City: Cui Jie | Owen Hatherley
Looking at the work of Cui Jie from a northern European perspective, the first error is probably to think you’re seeing some form of lament for a modernist past. That narrative is fairly familiar now, based on a longing for the largest-scale remnants of the material culture of postwar social democracy or state socialism—the buildings they left behind to be inhabited or ruined under neoliberalism.
Cui Jie: Lines of Flight between Surface and Model | Yuan Jiawei
Amid a wave of postmodernism, this full-fledged approach of developing and utilizing the value-in-exchange of symbols caused a breach in creative barriers between art and architecture, and cast light on the way in which modernism captured pure form. In particular reference to urban construction and development, the interchangeability of the identity of artist and architect is instrumental in pushing the notion of space towards a dimension verging on democracy. In this vein, Cui Jie, an artist who came of age in the 1980s and 90s, shows a keen grasp on the various architectural patterns that have had a profound effect on the rapid renewal and expansion process of Chinese cities, and is adept at selectively harking back to these precedents of modernization in her painting and sculptural practice, thus triggering a momentary sense of the immediate future. The architect’s psyche reflected in her work goes beyond a mere collage-like schematization of architectural elements. Instead, her works are predicated on a technical enthusiasm for the city’s “autonomous surface” (hereafter referred to as the “epidermis”) and a pattern recognition of geographical misplacement or anachorism.
Rearviews & Mirrors: Architecture, idealism and anachronism in the work of Cui Jie | Zhou Ying
Representations of the future always look dated as soon as the future itself arrives. Part of China’s post-1980s generation, the artist Cui Jie makes paintings that continually confound our sense of time in their seeming nostalgia for the future. Set against a metallic sky and often ﬂoating above a similarly reﬂective gridded ground, Cui’s technically exquisite renderings of built forms not only capture a speciﬁc typology of urban China’s modernist artefacts; together with her more recent sculptures, they scrutinize the veracity of modernism as an ideology claiming the future. To the artist, who did a residency last year in Tel Aviv, the flawless International Style of the white city is appealing but not all that ‘interesting’. What compels her is precisely the opposite: the seemingly arbitrary, erratic and often jarring juxtaposition of an appropriated modernism against a context that is, in itself, rapidly shifting. Reconstructed amidst the chaos of China’s urban transition, the pristine, future-facing forms of Western modernism read as anachronisms.
Mutter, Ich bin dumm! Evelyn Taocheng Wang | Hendrik Folkerts
I am looking at a painting by the Chicago-based Surrealist artist Gertrude Abercrombie, Self-Portrait of My Sister, created in 1941. The woman has sharp features, an elongated neck, and her gaze projects onto an unknown horizon beyond the picture frame. The radiant blue of her eyes echoes the green and blue of her dress, collar, and hat, the latter adorned with dark purple grapes and a corkscrew. Her lips are pressed, giving her face a stern, austere expression, in subtle contrast with the playful gesture of her right hand embracing her left wrist. Tellingly, Abercrombie was an only child. The artist used self-portraiture to create an alter ego, an imaginary sister—was she smarter, prettier, meaner, or more real somehow? In her records, she would refer to this painting as “Portrait of the Artist as Ideal,” stating: “It’s always myself that I paint, but not actually, because I don’t look that good or cute.” The painting reminds me of Evelyn Taocheng Wang, and all the other possible Evelyns envisioned by Wang.
Openings: Evelyn Taocheng Wang｜Karen Archey
THERE IS NO ONE THING that we could call the “immigrant experience,” but certainly everyone who has immigrated is familiar with how mundane misunderstandings can reveal cultural tectonics, of how humor can sometimes be mobilized to leaven pain. What’s the correct time of day to introduce yourself to a new neighbor? How earnestly should you respond to the question “How are you?” Will you come off as suspicious to the neighbors if your curtains remain drawn? The answers to these questions might seem relative or merely dependent on personal proclivity, yet one’s approach to these everyday situations constitutes, in part, the je ne sais quoi of national belonging. And while learning a new culture can be refined into a science, other qualities will still mark us as different, factors comprising who we are, where we come from, and our appearance.
Rhinoceroses, Lilies, Vampires: Yong Xiang Li | Alvin Li
Central to Li’s work is his interest in the evolution of style and subjectivity as mediated by power dynamics across racial, sexual, class, and national boundaries. From the eighteenth century through the twentieth—while queer signs like the mannerisms of the by-then-obsolete European aristocracy were being adopted by cosmopolitan homosexuals in dis-identification with the increasingly dominant and normative social body of the bourgeoisie—growing exchange between East and West spawned fantasies permeated by fear of the foreign, resulting in Europe’s assimilation of other bodies, desires, and aesthetic traditions into its own canon.
Breathing Through Skin | Alvin Li
0 – Sea Snakes (The Ones Rumored to Kill)
It is said that most species of sea snakes can breathe through their skin. These aquatic creatures are still vertebrates, possessing no gills, but with their miraculous skin—which provides 25% of the oxygen intake needed for survival—and one enormous lung, they need only swim up to the surface for a single giant breath every couple of hours.
Though rumored to be deadly, they are in fact less likely than land snakes to bite humans. Even when they do, they sometimes forget to inject their venom. Their bodies are sleek, almost eel-like, with a vertically flattened tail that functions as a paddle. Ophiologists believe these are survival adaptations that developed as they abandoned land for water.
If they were to meet their terrestrial sisters, what would ensue—entwine, bite, or fly?
Painting in the Time of Technophoria – On Zhou Siwei’s art practice and his latest solo exhibition “New Phone for Every Week” | Fiona He
What does an ordinary day look like for most us nowadays? You are likely to reach for your mobile phone before your mind is fully turned on. Your home screen, filled with notifications from last night while you slept, shines brighter than your serenading alarm. You get ready, and rush to the nearest subway station. With a swipe of your e-wallet on your phone, you hop on the subway while the transit fare is instantly deducted from your bank account. For that matter, you can hardly remember the last time you saw paper money. On your commute to work, you shuffle between the multiple messenger apps and social media platforms to catch up with the “world.” If time allows, you indulge in a few video clips on YouTube or even try to level up with your teammates in the “Honor of Kings.” Meanwhile, infomercials moving along subway cart windows with a few occasional glitches, as if the underground tunnels have built-in screens that stretch from one station to the next, compete for your attention. But you have long been indifferent, or even desensitized to advertisements, be they in motion, looped, or still. Once you get to work, whatever your job may be, it’s likely you operate on some kind of monitor, if not on multiples. Your proficiency in all of the devices at work is has become your second nature, which does not require any forethought. And, by the time you get off work, the city’s nocturnal atmosphere revels on with artificial stimuli that keep all of your sensory responses alive. Although you might not be able to identify the great dipper, but the night sky lusters with a constellation of hundreds of drones into silhouettes of images, glyph, or even propaganda slogans that are easier for you to recognize than the stars. The high-rise buildings and menacing towers, key players of the urban jungle in the daytime, contending for a city’s skyline, have now turned into plugged monoliths, on which infomercials roll on in endless syncopation. Well, you get the picture. In fact, a verbal narrative, or a single image would not suffice to portray our daily routine, and perhaps the reception of such narratives string together faster into a mental video clip than it’s told……
Zhou Siwei: Aesthetic Research | Bao Dong
Like many artists from the same generation, Zhou Siwei’s art practice departed from an intentional distancing from the academic and especially, the realist art. Chinese realist art usually has double identities, one is considered as aesthetic values and ideological contents, serving as the basis of art-related policy making which is supported and directed by political parties and the government. It used to be the only legitimate model, including reflectionism, class theory, exemplarism, namely a series of aesthetic principles beyond mediums and genres such as “content dictates form.” The second identity of realism is the methodology of realism that’s conducting the aesthetic form as such within art, based upon representational skills, centred upon historical figures while aiming at literary and social expressions. Extending towards the capillary tips, this methodology also includes painting geometric solids, plaster figures, heads and bodies, and finally the thematic works. In short, this is what’s still being taught in the conventional departments of every art school in China. The two identities of realism are interconnected, in fact, they are the same thing, in English Realism can mean both Xieshizhuyi and Xianshizhuyi.
Meet the artist-explorer Liu Chuang | Alvin Li
He tackles bitcoin mining and engineered nature in his ambitious installations
Nestled in the Shanghai suburb of Songjiang, Liu Chuang’s studio is piled to the rafters with neatly organized books. Maps of various scales hang on the wall. Among the many charts and diagrams stuck to the shelves, I also spot a periodic table of elements. This scholarly setting recalls the office of a historian or a geographer more than an artist’s studio – and yet, over the past few years, Liu’s work has impressed the Chinese art milieu with an ever more interdisciplinary speculative practice that spans video, sculpture, and installation. Employing an expansive web of references that continuously stretches the discursive framework of his own work, the artist has also challenged the limits of Chinese contemporary art as a whole.
Cannibalised cultures and colonised territories | Mark Rappolt
One of the ways in which we assimilate the new is to insist that it is, in fact, old. Nothing comes from nothing, as the old saying goes. That certainly seems to be the case in Shanghai-based Liu Chuang’s three-channel videowork Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities (2018). The work takes the form of found and filmed footage with a voiceover narrative that traces material and immaterial lines of power that have been deployed in China, over the past few thousand years, to conquer people and territories, and to generate material and immaterial profit. The narrative moves from economic inflation triggered in eastern China during the fifth century BCE, when King Jing of Zhou reduced the amount of copper in coins in order to fuel an obsession with creating enormous bronze chime bells, to nomadic bitcoin miners, operating outside any centralised banking system, herding their rigs across present-day China in harmony with the seasonal and regional variations in energy production.
Rhythm Of Singularity | Lai Fei
To be honest, I don’t know how Guan Xiao does it. Looking at the ways she grabs and synthesizes materials in her work, it’s a bit like watching a contestant on The Brain1 microscopically examining a thousand goldfish. This isn’t a totally apt analogy, for today it’s nearly impossible to quantify—and to describe, even—just how much visual information we receive on a daily basis, via networks both visible and intangible. In this imploding society, everyone is caught in the constant flow of data, always susceptible to some form of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. What makes Guan’s work unique is her ability to maintain an extremely high level of concentration while pulling content and motifs from the massive material bank of the internet. In her process, she stays true to an internal worldview that is neither culturally specific nor general. In this dazzling world of data, she finds her own “basic logic” to connect forms.
Everyday Transformations: Guan Xiao | Ying Tan
“In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora (I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities)”—Ovid, Metamorphoses
Ovid opens the Metamorphoses (AD 8) with an explicit statement of intent. In the 250 myths that follow, the Roman poet chronicles the subject of transformation—sometimes in an arbitrary fashion, sometimes retelling well-known Greek fables, and sometimes straying in other, unexpected directions. One of these stories, which entered our collective consciousness, can be seen at Rome’s Galleria Borghese, where Giovanni Bernini’s famous sculpture tells the tale of the nymph Daphne in mid-metamorphosis—her limbs turning into the twines of a laurel tree as she escapes from the love-stricken Apollo. Transformations occur in our everyday lives, too; we experience this in cinema, as film scores transport audiences sonically through visual imagery…
Be Here, Now: An Introduction to an Introduction | Stephanie Bailey
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
In autumn, 2000, New Literary History published an issue asking if there was life after identity politics, to which Marlon B. Ross responded: “Which ‘identity?’ What ‘politics?’ ‘After’ when and where?” Ross’s point was this: Before “identity politics” there was already a politics of identity—and “wherever there is identity, there is a struggle for power.” In the same issue, Eric Lott located this struggle within a “politics of participatory discrepancy,” created when emergent social movements collide and collude to form a dissonant social fabric composed of rampant intersections and interactions between groups. It is in this fabric that Lott located a potential for a unified, anti-normative politics, in which no one is represented by one movement, and no movement is expected to represent the entirety of a human being.