Rewarding persistence

Updated 2018-10-09 09:15:00

An installation titled Suspension by Meng Boshen, winner of last year's Wang Shikuo Award.

An award by two cultural institutions in Beijing gives artists who persevere a chance to showcase their talent.

Meng Boshen's current one-man show at Beijing's Today Art Museum, which runs through Wednesday, features only two site-specific installations whose materials are entirely natural: One is a tree suspended in midair and the other is a pile of stones spread over the ground.

The two works at Observing Reality through Smears are Meng's latest productions that continue the 38-year-old Beijing-based artist's distinctive work approach - using black pencils to smudge all over the surface of the objects in his creation.

"Once I used pencils to try to draw as precisely as I could, but I found that what I depicted was not real but an illusion," he says.

"Now I enjoy the repetition of strokes covering the objects in black, and in time I immerse myself in a world of pure blackness and an austere style of work, through which I find inner peace."

In Suspension, chopped parts of a tree that Meng found at a demolition site in a Beijing suburb are hung in midair

The other of Meng's installation, River.

The other work River shows cobblestones carefully arranged on the floor. The tree chunks and the stones were all smudged using pencils.

Meng uses this slow, seemingly meaningless approach to express an attitude against the hustle and impetuous mood of society. Further, he explores the relationship between one's belief and social development, and between people and nature.

Li Xianting, a prominent art curator, says the fallen tree in Suspension makes the audience relate to a lot of other trees that share the same fate thanks to the fast-paced urbanization; the tree symbolizes not just its kind but the lives of people influenced during that process.

River, which Meng created earlier this year, derives from his curiosity about the sky and stars. So, he collected dozens of stones, and he arranged them to resemble a dry riverbed or the Milky Way. And he mixed them with Yuhua stones, a special kind of pebble unique to Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

Misplacement, by this year's runner up Fu Shuai.

Li says by smudging the stones, Meng evens out the differences between ordinary cobblestone and the Yuhua stone, a popular tourist souvenir.

"The act of smearing covers the glitter of the stones ... It is a metaphor that to nature, all stones are equal, and all lives are equal."

Meng's exhibition was made possible thanks to pledges by two cultural institutions in Beijing - the Today Art Museum and the Wang Shikuo Foundation - to support Chinese artists who have persisted for more than a decade.

To this end, they established the annual Wang Shikuo Award in 2016 in the name of Wang Shikuo (1911-73), a painter and professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

The award is given to artists aged between 30 and 45. And as part of the award, the works of candidates of the year and the winner of the previous session are exhibited.

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